By Ranger Perry E. Brown.
IN THE MONTH of March, 1932, Ranger Satterwhite and I were assigned to a winter game patrol on the North Rim. The patrol was made to that part called the Walhalla Plateau, a peninsula extending southeastward into the Canyon. It forms the extreme eastern part of the North Rim.
The purpose of this trip was to find out whether deer could winter out on the points along the rim of the Walhalla Plateau and also to find out what other types of wild life were to be found there at that season.
On March 19th we left Bright Angel Ranger Station on the North Rim and went by road and trail to Farview. Since our packs were quite heavy we used a small sled, one of us pulling it while the other broke trail. After a few spills and minor accidents we finally reached Farview about nightfall and made camp there the first day. At that place we cached some supplies, but took with us enough for the next three days.
On March 20th we left Farview and followed the Canyon rim to Point Imperial. Snow fell the entire day and a cold heavy wind made it necessary to snowshoe all the way. At Point Imperial we camped for two days in five feet of snow. The first day was spent in following the rim to the Park boundary overlooking South Canyon. The second day, March 22nd, we followed the road from Point Imperial to Farview.
Here we loaded the sled again and continued on by road to Greenland Lake. At Greenland Lake we cached some supplies and went south to Obi Point to camp for the night. At this Point the first sign of a deer was noted.
On March 23rd we tramped to Ariel Point, camped that night at the head of Clear Creek Canyon and next day arrived at Cape Royal where the night of March 24th was spent.
Following the rim from Cape Royal on the 25th we went to Points Final, Naji, and Atoko and back to Greenland Lake. On this occasion we covered the greatest number of miles of any one day, despite the fact that it was necessary to snowshoe the entire distance. At Point Atoko we left the rim of the Canyon and took the road back to Greenland Lake where we made the last camp of the trip. The next day was spent in returning to the Bright Angel Ranger Station by way of Neil Canyon and along the rim to Nachi Point.
The first deer signs were seen near Komo Point on the evening of March 22nd, as already stated. The tracks led up from the slopes below the Coconino sandstone and covered quite an area along the rim. On the morning of March 23d six deer were sighted at this point. They were quite wild and could not be approached closer than a hundred yards. They were young animals and seemed to be in fair condition. Later the same day remains of two freshly killed deer were seen and the scattered hide and hair in the vicinity indicated that coyotes had feasted sumptuously.
On the morning of March 24th, five more deer were seen on Komo Point. One, an old doe, was in very poor condition and probably will die before summer, but the four young ones seemed to be in fine shape. At Cliff Springs we found another carcass. In this part of the plateau - around Cape Royal - conditions seemed the most favorable for deer to live through the winter, but from signs it appeared that not more than four or five were in the vicinity. North of Cape Royal - around Point Imperial - the snow was too deep for the winter range of deer.
The only coyote sighted was near Naji Point. No bobcats were seen, but many signs indicated that they were there. As might be expected, signs of coyote and bobcat were numerous where deer tracks were the most noticeable. Many old tracks, too old to identify definitely, may have been those of cougars.
Throughout the forest we saw squirrels, and the carpet of needles and cones at the base of trees seemed to prove that they were having "three square meals" a day. Their tracks were all very plain in the snow where they had traveled from tree to tree.
Many birds, mostly crested jays, were noted every day. During the trip we counted three grouse, six ravens, three hawks, three golden eagles, and numerous nuthatches and juncos. At Cape Royal a large band of bluebirds were discovered and on all bare southern exposures other smaller birds were finding the month of March not too cold for them.
Due to the blanket of snow which covered the ground along most of the route, very little vegetation except for evergreens was found. On the few bare patches some of the earlier plants were starting and a few shrubs were sending forth new leaves. The trees in the forest showed the result of a hard winter. Many branches were broken entirely off and the smaller trees were bent over from the weight of snow.
All southern exposures were bare above the Kaibab limestone, but western exposures were covered to the top of the Coconino sandstone. Eastern exposures had quite a little snow on the slopes below the Coconino sandstone the snow on the northern exposures reached down into Canyon as far as the Tonto Platform. This was especially noticeable from Atoko Point, Farview and Point Imperial where the rim faces east.
Saddle Mountain and the ridge east and west were bare to the top. Komo Point, Honan Point, Naji Point, Points Final and Nachi were all bare on the south side and for about thirty yards back from the rim. The north side of these points was covered with about thirty inches of snow. On the south slope of Point Imperial there was about an acre of bare ground above the Kaibab limestone. Obi Point, Ariel Point, and the unnamed points in their vicinity were mostly bare, with a few patches of snow about 12 inches deep. About 100 acres of ground at Cape Royal and to the west were bare with scattered patches of snow.
The following table shows the average depth of snow on the trip:
The following is a summary of the wildlife counted during the trip:
Except in a very mild winter no more than fifteen or twenty deer could survive on the Walhalla Plateau and it is doubtful that the deer noted had wintered there of their own accord. Most of them were of young stock and due to the early snow storms were probably forced to remain on the points.
Approximately 72 miles were covered in eight days in making this survey of the Walhalla Plateau. Since the area includes a recently formed Wilderness Reserve which is never to be opened to construction work by man, and also a Research Reserve, unenterable except with permit from the Park Superintendent, it was particularly important that we gain what knowledge we could concerning it. The trip as a whole was considered successful as well as very interesting.
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