Home Archived May 12, 2018

Stanton Repeat Photography

Mile 98.2, Crystal Rapid, Downstream View from River Right (Stake 1471)

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Stake 1471, 8 February 1890 View Larger Image
8 February 1890
Before 1966, Crystal Rapid was a benign, long riffle, especially in comparison with the rapids a short distance upstream and downstream. Had the Stanton expedition not lost a boat upstream in Horn Creek Rapid, Stanton likely would have decided to run this rapid. Instead, the crew portaged their belongings and lined their boats on the right side. Immediately upon arriving here, Stanton did what many modern river runners do: he walked up to the scout point on the debris-flow terrace overlooking the rapid and took this photograph. His view shows biological soil crusts on the fine-grained soil between boulders and clumps of perennial grasses, five individuals of Mormon tea, a barren debris fan, and a long and wide riffle with no island downstream.
Photo credit: Robert B. Stanton, 57-RS-248, courtesy of The National Archives

Stake 1471, 1 February 1990 View Larger Image
1 February 1990
Stanton's view and its replicate illustrate a number of aspects of environmental change in the past century of Grand Canyon history. The change in the rapid, now one of the biggest on the Colorado River, was caused by a debris flow on December 6, 1966. An island, known to river runners as the Rock Garden, is prominent in the river downstream. Tamarisk, a non-native tree, chokes the once-barren mouth and debris fan of Crystal Creek, a perennial stream. Five individuals of Mormon tea persist on the edge of the debris-flow terrace, which likely is more than 10,000 years old. More subtle changes have occurred in the foreground, where biological soil crusts, which would have been very stable on this ancient debris-flow terrace, have been trampled by river runners intent on scouting Crystal Rapid. This impact has removed about three inches of soil from this site.
Photo credit: Ralph Hopkins

Stake 1471, 8 October 2002 View Larger Image
8 October 2002
Twelve years later, the amount of tamarisk, willow, and desert broom present on the debris fan have increased while the rapid and Rock Garden, as apparent from this view, is unchanged. All of the Mormon tea on the terrace edge persist but have changed in form. The trampling continues here, although the rapid now is more commonly scouted from river level.
Photo credit: Tom Brownold

Stake 1471, 22 September 2010 View Larger Image
22 September 2010
The riparian vegetation continues to increase, although native species seem to be increasing more than the non-native tamarisk, which are increasing in size and stature. The five Mormon tea individuals, which were present 120 years ago, remain on the terrace edge.
Photo credit: Bill Lemke

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