Pothole Point

excerpted from our book

Canyonlands National Park Favorite Jeep Roads & Hiking Trails
pages 124-125

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Pothole Point, Canyonlands National Park     This Pothole Point trail is a disappointment to many because the trail guide that the Park Service distributes at the trailhead implies that the potholes are often full of water. In fact rain is so infrequent in the high desert environment, and the rainwater evaporates so quickly that the potholes rarely contain water. However, if you are lucky enough to be in the park right after a rain when the potholes at Pothole Point are full of the precious liquid this short hike can be a memorable one.

      From the parking area the trail proceeds in a westerly direction for 200 yards and then turns north to begin a 0.4-mile loop over a wide, barren expanse of sun-bleached slickrock. Near the northwestern side of the loop the trail crosses a particularly long stretch of flat, featureless sandstone that is heavily pitted with shallow depressions; hence the name Pothole Point. The potholes are the result of thousands of years of exposure to rainwater with tiny amounts of carbon dioxide dissolved in it. The solution forms a weak acid that, over time, dissolves the calcium compounds that bind the sand into stone, causing potholes to form on the flat surface.
     Normally this sea of slickrock is dry, dusty and lifeless, but for perhaps 15-20 days out of the year, especially during the months of August and September, the desert calm is broken by thundershowers that fill the depressions with water. When this happens Canyonlands National Park undergoes a series of rapid changes that are fascinating to watch. Flowers bloom, the grass turns green, and on the slickrock each water-filled pothole is suddenly transformed into a microcosm of life. Within days the pools become filled with tadpoles, mosquito larvae, snails, beetles, and other tiny organisms. Amazingly, some of these animals are able to hibernate in the sand at the bottom of the potholes for a year or more while they wait for rain. Others complete their life cycle in just a few days and then lay eggs that are programmed to hatch with the arrival of the next rain

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