A Many-Colored Fall in Blacksmith Fork Canyon

November 25, 2021


Photographer: Ray Boren

Summary Author: Ray Boren

As summer’s long days diminish and temperatures turn crisp, fall colors begin to pop on the slopes and in the canyons of North America’s Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin of the western United States. This photo from near Hyrum, Utah shows the many colors of fall taken on Sept. 30, 2021 along the Blacksmith Fork River. The stream follows serpentine Blacksmith Fork Canyon generally westward through the Bear River Range, a subset of the Wasatch Mountains. The stream continues toward the Bear River in Cache Valley, and thus on to the West’s terminal inland sea, Great Salt Lake.

The quilt of autumn colors is created by an intermingling of boxelder trees (Acer negundo), bigtooth maples (Acer grandidentatum), scrub or gambel oaks (Quercus gambelii), in addition to riverside dogwood, willows, shrubs and sedges. The deciduous trees have stopped producing chlorophyll, revealing their underlying colors. Higher up, forest greens are provided by Douglas firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and various pines, including pinyon pines (likely Pinus monophylla), as well as Utah junipers (Juniperus osteosperma).

In the distance rise steep light-gray cliffs of interbedded limestone and dolostone, as well as some sandstones and conglomerates. These rock cliffs create the scenic grandeur of Blacksmith Fork and nearby Logan Canyon to its north, as they thread the Bear River Mountains. These layers were deposited in marine environments during the Paleozoic Era’s Devonian, Mississippian and Pennsylvanian ages, 299-419 million years ago. Blacksmith Fork’s distinctive name has two possible origins, according to John W. Van Cott, who compiled a reference book of “Utah Place Names”. One source might have been a cache of blacksmithing tools kept in the vicinity by mountain man and explorer Jedediah Smith and his brigades in the early 1800s for shoeing horses. Other tales mention an actual blacksmith, Andrew Anderson, who later worked in the area.

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