Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Metro in the Desert: Utah’s Zion Subway Tunnel


For those daring enough to venture nine miles through deep canyon and desert landscape, here is a must-see. The Zion Subway, located in Zion National Park, is nestled in the desert-ridden terrain of southwest Utah. The tunnel is named after its similar appearance to urban subway tunnels; however there is no direct correlation between the two. The Zion Subway tunnel has been carved from the Left Fork of North Creek where churning water sculpts the tunnel between two peaks called North and South Guardian Angels. In order to reach this majestic and incredibly unique landscape, hikers must first trek through 14.5 km-15.28 km (9-9.5 miles) of trails, canyons, and small river beds, but the payoff is most definitely worth the adventure.

Within the hollowed out sandstone, rivers and pools of water are met with little sunlight; conditions that allow algae to flourish and turn the water into its greenish/turquoise hue. Careful to be too lured in by the algae though, as it also coats much of the surrounding sediment, making for a slippery obstacle to dance around while hiking. Other wildlife within the tunnel includes an abundant population of dragonflies, frogs, lizards, and some species of birds. In fact, the surrounding Zion National Park is home to more than 270 species of birds, including the infamous roadrunner.

As beautiful as the Zion Subway may be, caution must be taken when hiking through, as conditions in the tunnel are known to escalate quickly. Danger from flash-floods, extreme heat, and hypothermia does put adventurists at risk but shouldn’t deter everyone from venturing into the Zion Subway tunnel. Although the hike may require extensive preparation and training, the payoff of visiting one of the desert’s best kept secrets is well worth while.


Photo Credit:
Christian Bothner, National Geographic

References:
1. http://www.nps.gov/zion/index.htm
2. http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/zion-photos/
3. http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/utah/zion/visitor-info/geology/
4. http://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/southwest-desert-trails.htm
5. http://www.zionnational-park.com/zion-national-park-subway.htm

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