Ranger Kathryn's Arches

April 16, 2011

Eagle Park, Part 1

The old stick nest was in a large hollow in the sandstone fin. Its shape was vaguely bowl-like, and there was whitewash everywhere, but it didn’t look as if it had had recent occupants. We’d hiked a couple of rugged miles off trail to reach it, on the most perfect of spring days — sunny, 60 degrees, 4 mph wind. Conditions were as flawless as they can get in the Utah desert, and to top it off we were in Eagle Park.

Russian Thistle -- "tumbleweed" -- is an invasive species that is the bane of our existence here. Each one has hundreds of thorns. I always wear long pants.

Let me paint a picture of this far northwest corner of Arches. Nobody goes to Eagle Park. There are no trails, and only one little-traveled dirt road passes through Salt Valley. It is deceptively plain-looking from that road, contrasting starkly with the bold and eye-catching formations for which Arches National Park is famous. There is little to demand your attention — until you get past two ridges and a tumbleweed-choked wash. And then…

… you’re in another world. The striking sandstone fins from Devils Garden reach their northern terminus here, and valleys and vistas open before you. Silence pervades everything. How last year’s intern had ever discovered this nest is a complete mystery, as it is about as far off the beaten path as any in the park. My job this year is to visit as many of the previously-documented raptor nests as I can, to evaluate each for current condition and activity. I’m living my dream.

to be continued in Eagle Park, Part 2 

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