"The largest of the canyon animals one is likely to see is the wild sheep, or Rocky Mountain bighorn, a most admirable beast, with limbs that never fail, at home on the most nerve-trying precipices, acquainted with all the springs and passes and broken-down jumpable places in the sheer ribbon cliffs, bounding from crag to crag in easy grace and confidence of strength, his great horns held high above his shoulders, wild red blood beating and hissing through every fiber of him like the wind through a quivering mountain pine."

- John Muir

mule deer

desert hare

Park Fauna

Park Flora

573 Home Delicate Arch
HistoryWolfe Ranch
ArchesTurret Arch through North Window
Hikingtopographic map detail
Wildlifecollared lizard
Geologyrock strata

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This web site is designed as an example for educators looking to construct an interactive virtual field trip for students at the high school level.

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Big Horn Sheep

Teeming With Life: The High Desert of Arches National Park

In movies, the desert is most often portrayed as an endless sea of lifeless sand and rock. Nothing could be further form the truth. In the high desert of Arches National park, a plethora of creatures, large and small, thrive in the hot, arid, rocky terrain. Bighorn sheep, lizards, snakes, hares, mule deer, coyotes, foxes, thousands of species of insects, and birds, from the road runner to the majestic bald eagle all make their home in the red rock canyons and hills of Arches National Park.

Desert creatures adapt to the climate a variety of different ways. Many species are nocturnal. Kangaroo rats, bats, mountain lions, elf owls, skunks, and ringtails. Others are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn or dusk. Great Horned Owls, coyotes, jackrabbits, mule deer and many song birds are crepuscular. Still others, like hawks, eagles, lizards, squirrels, snakes and chipmunks have adapted to daytime, or diurnal, activity. Other adaptations include large ears which help cool jackrabbits, many bat species, and kangaroo rats. Some shift their time of activity dependent on temperature, while others migrate to other terrain when the desert becomes too hot.

Life in the desert is not limited to animal life. The park is also rife with plants. Over 400 species of plants can be found at Arches National Park. Almost all of them can be divided into three types. Drought escapers, drought resistors, and drought evaders. Drought escapers lie dormant, sometimes for years, in seed or root forms until it rains; then they burst into life, fruit and seed quickly, then go dormant again once the water is dried up. Grasses and wildflowers are drought escapers. Drought resistors have adapted to the desert. They are usually perennials with small, spiky needles or leaves that reduce exposure to the sun and prevent evaporation of precious water they've absorbed from the ground. Cacti and yuccas are drought resistors. Yuccas have long, roots that can find water far deeper than most other plants. Finally, drought evaders can be found in the few places in the desert where water can be found. Columbine and cottonwoods are drought evaders.