Erosion in Alvey Wash, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. Photo by Mike Hudak.
South of the town of Escalante, Alvey Wash, in the Alvey Wash Allotment, typifies the consequences of long-term cattle grazing along Western streams.


Close view of Alvey Wash, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. Photo by Mike Hudak. With banks trampled and stabilizing vegetation weakened by intense cattle grazing, flood waters over decades have washed away soil and down cut Alvey Wash. The original ground level was at least 15 feet above the woman’s head.


Harris Wash, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. Photo by Mike Hudak.
Southeast of Escalante, Alvey Wash becomes Harris Wash, but the cattle damage remains much the same. This cottonwood once stood on the wash’s bank, but with streamside vegetation weakened or destroyed by decades of cattle grazing, the original bank has “blown out” leaving the tree in the middle of the streambed. Whether this wash was ever a perennial stream I cannot say, but such cattle damage elsewhere in the West has lowered water tables and turned perennial streams into gullies that flow only during heavy rain.

As of year 2001, forty-six of seventy-six grazing allotments in the monument, including this one (Upper Cattle Allotment) were grazed during the growing season. Vegetation of the Intermountain West, which did not co-evolve with large ungulates is especially vulnerable to damage at that time.


Calf Creek, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. Photo by Mike Hudak. Calf Creek, in the northeast portion of the monument, exemplifies a creek in excellent condition. The creek is relatively deep for its width and it flows year long. There have been no cattle here since the early 1980s.


Sedges along Calf Creek, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. Photo by Mike Hudak.
Perennial grasses and sedges lining the banks of Calf Creek help to prevent the erosion seen on Alvey and Harris Washes.








Cattle-free: young riparian forest, Escalante River, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. Photo by Mike Hudak.
With the removal of cattle from the Escalante River its riparian community continues to heal, as demonstrated here by the young willows growing along its banks.





Text and Photos © 2004– by Mike Hudak, All Rights Reserved