Jul 25

Plants & Animals at the North Rim

Category: animals,Arizona

We visited the north rim of the Grand Canyon recently.  From Flagstaff the south rim is only 1.5 hours away.  It’s only 10 miles across the canyon to the north rim, but it’s a 215 mile, 5-hour drive to get from the south rim  to the north rim lodge.  For this reason it only gets 10% of the visitors that come to the canyon each year.

The drive was memorable.  Leaving Flagstaff‘s heavy forest of ponderosa pine, we soon passed through a transition zone of scrubby oak trees, then shrubs mixed with cactus, and finally into a barren and blasted desert. Continuing north, we went through the painted desert, whose magnificent cliffs frame the Colorado where it arrives from Utah.  At that point the river has cut an impressive symmetrical canyon that is of interest in itself, yet it pales in comparison to “the” Grand Canyon.  Vermilion cliffs national monument forms breathtaking scenery for the westward portion – it looks like mars.  A sudden rise in altitude, along with hairpin turns in the road, brings you through a small transition zone like Flagstaff’s, then abruptly into the ponderosa forest.  This forest – the Kaibab - is thicker and wilder than the Coconino forest around Flagstaff.

The north rim is more enjoyable than the south rim, because there are far less people, less development, more trails and less roads.  Pretty much everything about it is better!  The one exception is the long drive from Flagstaff.

I’m going to break this up into sections, because there are too many images to put in one post.  First, let’s do plants & animals.  I didn’t really get a lot of them, being so sick for most of the time (I had a wonderful case of food poisoning).  Plants sit still and are easier to approach… so there are more of them.  Luckily, I can go back pretty easily.

You can see from these that the north rim is more lush and heavily forested than the south rim.  This is a picture taken by my brother-in-law David; that’s me in the lower left corner.

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There are beautiful meadows in the Kaibab forest around the rim.  We arrived within the blooming season, but if you come too early or too late, you will not see this kind of thing.  But if you time it just right, there are flowers everywhere.  Because of the flowers, there are hummingbirds everywhere; they are as common as starlings on the east coast, and much more common than robins.  Although you can hear them constantly, they are hard to see because they are so small and fast.  Crows and ravens are also everywhere up here.

BTW, this is really what is looks like – no color saturation enhancement here!

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The forest around the rim has been heavily damaged by fires in the last ten years or so.  It seems as if half of the forest burned down.

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All of the images above and more are included in the gallery below.

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