Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Flora & Fauna

Life in Glen Canyon requires tenacity and creative adaptability. While the region appears harsh and sometimes barren, the park abounds with wildlife. The Colorado Plateau rises like a lush island from the surrounding Great Basin Desert. The mountains and high plateaus that encircle this area create a self-contained plant and animal community quite distinct from the adjacent desert habitats, ranging from riverbanks and lakeshore to barren mesas and piñon pine and juniper woodlands. 

Unless you are lucky or especially sharp-eyed, chances are you will not see any of the 80 species of mammals that live here. Most are nocturnal and only a few of them exist throughout the entire area. 

Antelope ground squirrels spend the day scampering around campground and picnic areas oblivious to the sun and heat. There are also several other species of ground squirrels and chipmunks, as well as woodrats, badgers, mice, gophers, kangaroo rats, and even porcupines!

Thirteen species of bats leave their rocky shelters after sunset to feed on insects. You can see them darting around bright lights hunting on summer evenings.

Larger mammals, such as coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, and foxes, roam the higher, more remote areas. These mammals are usually active at night, when their prey is out. 

At dusk, you may see mule deer—named for their long ears—as they browse. The deer move with great speed and dexterity over rough terrain, jumping so that they can see and track a predator's position. 

The park also supports one of the few natural populations of desert bighorn sheep, whose specially constructed hooves enable them to reach seemingly inaccessible cliffs.

Twelve species of snakes have been found here, though only six are common. The gopher snake is often mistaken for a rattler because of its brownish, diamond-shaped markings. Use caution around all snakes.

Like snakes, lizards are cold-blooded, and their activity depends on the temperature. Ten species of lizards can often be seen scurrying over rocks and under bushes, seeking shade or food such as insects, snakes, and other lizards. 

More than 270 species of birds have been sighted in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The cliffs around Lake Powell are home to one of the largest concentrations of peregrine falcons in North America. Once seriously endangered, the Peregrine now breeds in more than 30 aeries (nesting areas) around the lake. 

The river from the base of Glen Canyon Dam to Lees Ferry attracts neotropical migrants, including blue grosbeaks and yellow-breasted chats. In the winter, waterfowl of all types flock to both the lake and the river, as do bald eagles.

Glen Canyon also has one of the most successful condor reintroduction programs in the West. Nearly extinct just a few years ago, these largest of North American birds once again soar magnificently over areas of the Western landscape. Though they may be seen nearly anywhere in the Glen Canyon area (condors can range for hundreds of miles) one of the most likely spots is the Lees Ferry area.