Since 2013, the Grand Canyon Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to working on natural resource issues affecting the Grand Canyon and the surrounding Colorado Plateau, has been tasking volunteers with revitalizing the region's precious natural springs. Over the past half-century, some of the springs on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon have become little more than trickles due to impacts from cattle, invasive plants and eroded banks. These pockets of life, despite making up less than 0.01 percent of the Grand Canyon, are absolutely critical to the survival of species living in one of the driest states in the country.
This past summer, a motley crew of volunteers (including a CEO, a mathematician and a rocket scientist) put in hours rehabilitating the Parissawampitts Spring on the North Rim. Armed with shovels, rock bars and plenty of determination, the crew worked with the Forest Service on the flow of the spring and the protections surrounding it.
"Our first order of business? Tearing down old rotten wood fences and building 300 feet of new fencing around Parissawampitts Spring (try pronouncing that one 10 times fast) to protect 4,000 square feet of wetland habitat," wrote Grand Canyon Trust volunteer Stacey Pilcher. "The fencing keeps cattle, elk and buffalo from trampling the spring. For those large, thirsty critters, water flows into a trough outside the fence, making sure they can get a drink without destroying the source."
Desert bighorn sheep, the largest native animal in Grand Canyon National Park, can weigh up to 250 pounds. During periods of extreme heat, they often will visit springs such as the above every three days.
In addition to digging up invasive plants, volunteers also helped rebuild eroded banks near the spring to prevent soil runoff. Previous springs often were surrounded by eyesores of concrete or metal troughs.
Bobcats, which can weigh between 12 to 30 pounds, are also frequent visitors to the region's springs. These three were captured by a camera located at an improved desert watering hole in Marble Canyon.
A before-and-after photo of restoration efforts near Marble Canyon reveal how quickly a rebuilt spring can go from a hole in the ground to supporting a flourishing ecosystem. According to the Grand Canyon Trust, these springs support more than 500 times the species compared to the surrounding arid lands.
Birds of prey are often seen near springs and rivers in the Grand Canyon region and include hawks, eagles, falcons, ospreys, owls and vultures.
In total, more than 385 volunteers in 2017 gave over 11,000 hours of service across 28 projects in the plateau. These efforts included the removal of more than 10,000 invasive plants and the surveying of 40 miles of streams and 67 springs on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and the Mongollon Rim. To find out how you can get involved in future campaigns, jump here.