Snow in Zion Canyon

December 23, 2013

Zionsno210_11dec13 (2)

Photographer: Ray Boren
Summary Author: Ray Boren

December 2013 Viewer's Choice Snow is an infrequent winter visitor to the bottoms of Zion Canyon, the centerpiece of beautiful Zion National Park in southwestern Utah. But when snow does fall and stick, the sandstone wonderland carved by the Virgin River and its tributary streams seems to have donned a whole new wardrobe. Because of its high contrast with adjacent snow free area the snow cover acts to enhance certain geologic features such as the rock layer at center.

Arctic air from Canada plunged south and enveloped all of Utah and much of the West during the weekend of December 7-8, 2013, sending even usually mild Zion Canyon into an early, shivery deep-freeze. Nearby St. George recorded overnight temperatures near 0 degrees F (-18 C) for several days, and 6 in (10 cm) or more of snow blanketed the area. Snow isn't uncommon during winter storms on the park’s higher plateaus and monolith rim-tops some of which rise to almost 8,000 ft (2,438 m) above sea level. But it rarely sticks and stays around in the warmer lower canyon itself or in the nearby city of St. George (elevation 2,860 ft or 871 m) with an average December high temperature of 41 F (5 C). This is an area known because of its relatively mild winters as Utah’s Dixie and a record-breaking snowfall of this magnitude can cause quite a shock as well as wishes for snowplows and snow shovels.

This photo showing the Virgin River and afternoon light on the sentinel called The Watchman near the west entrance to Zion National Park was taken on December 11, 2013.

Photo Details: Camera: NIKON D3200; Lens: AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G; Focal Length: 18mm (35mm equivalent: 27mm); Aperture: f/8.0; Exposure Time: 0.0050 s (1/200); ISO equiv: 100; Software: iPhoto 9.5.