If you have ever driven through Cedar City, stopped for gas at the Maverick, stayed at a local hotel, or grabbed a coffee at the local Grind you most likely have seen framed photographs of the iconic Kanarraville Falls. In fact, my first trip to the grocery store concluded with the cart-loader exuberantly suggesting I visit the falls. The famous canyon is a classic summertime hike for families all over southern Utah and is known for its majestic red rock slot canyons and cold waterfalls.
While Kanarraville Falls has been plastered in magazines hoping for increased tourism, it’s popularity has contributed to its increasing degradation. Unfortunately, Kanarraville Falls has seen so much use that it no longer retains the character it once had; new trails fill the canyon corridor, and the heavy trace of human use is difficult not to notice. It’s less well-known sister, Spring Creek Canyon exemplifies how important it is to manage these special places for their wilderness qualities. Spring Creek Canyon is currently managed in conjunction with Kanarraville Falls by the Bureau of Land Management as a Wilderness Study Area- an area that contains undeveloped land and possesses wilderness quality- however, there are still portions of these canyons that are unprotected. Now is the time for the BLM to recognize these canyons’ importance for local and regional wildlife as well as responsible human enjoyment.
Spring Creek Canyon highlights the significance of riparian corridors in southern Utah. The canyon contains important habitat areas for Mexican spotted owl and many raptors or birds of prey. What makes this canyon and the surrounding Hurricane Cliffs so special is its geographic location at the transition of the Colorado Plateau and Great Basin geologic provinces, giving rise to a unique collection of plant species. Spring Creek Canyon provides winter refugia for mountain lion and riparian corridors for birds, aquatic insects, and sensitive fish such as the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout.
Spring Creek Canyon is one of my favorite places close to Cedar City to run and scramble. An ambitious explorer can even hike from Spring Creek Canyon into Zion National Park directly south. In this way, Spring Creek Canyon also serves as a critical public lands linkage between Zion National Park and the Markagunt Plateau region. This landscape connection on public lands is an integral piece of a wildlife megalinkage that extends from the Grand Canyon to Yellowstone. On the continental scale, the Grand Canyon ecoregion and the Utah High Plateaus are both considered hot spots for threatened and endemic species and critical to connectivity for goshawks and wolves between habitat in Arizona and Utah, and the northern Rockies.