Kaibab Plateau

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View of the Vermillion Cliffs (to the northeast) from the Kaibab Plateau Kaibab Plateau 100 2838 0225 edited-1.jpg
View of the Vermillion Cliffs (to the northeast) from the Kaibab Plateau

The Kaibab Plateau is located in northern Arizona in the United States. The plateau, part of the larger Colorado Plateau, is bordered on the south by the Grand Canyon and reaches an elevation of 9200 feet (2817 m) above sea level. The plateau is divided between Kaibab National Forest and the "North Rim" portion of Grand Canyon National Park. Tributary canyons of the Colorado River form the plateau's eastern and western boundaries, and tiers of uplifted cliffs define the northern edges of the land form. Winter snowfall is often heavy (sometimes exceeding 200 in (5,100 mm)), and this creates opportunities for backcountry Nordic skiing and snow camping. [1]

Arizona State in the United States

Arizona is a state in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the Western and the Mountain states. It is the sixth largest and the 14th most populous of the 50 states. Its capital and largest city is Phoenix. Arizona shares the Four Corners region with Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico; its other neighboring states are Nevada and California to the west and the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California to the south and southwest.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or simply America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

Colorado Plateau plateau in the southwestern United States

The Colorado Plateau, also known as the Colorado Plateau Province, is a physiographic and desert region of the Intermontane Plateaus, roughly centered on the Four Corners region of the southwestern United States. This province covers an area of 336,700 km2 (130,000 mi2) within western Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, southern and eastern Utah, and northern Arizona. About 90% of the area is drained by the Colorado River and its main tributaries: the Green, San Juan, and Little Colorado. Most of the remainder of the plateau is drained by the Rio Grande and its tributaries.


This broad feature is heavily forested with aspen, spruce-fir, ponderosa pine, and pinyon-juniper woodland, and stands in sharp contrast to the arid lowlands encircling it. The cool forests of the plateau are home to the Kaibab squirrel, which is endemic to the region. Other fauna includes deer, turkey, cougar, and bobcat. The Kaibab deer are particularly important because of the changes in their population during the early 1900s. This particular fluctuation is a great example of population engineering and the effects humans can have on nature.

Aspen common name for certain tree species

Aspen is a common name for certain tree species; some, but not all, are classified by botanists in the section Populus, of the Populus genus.

Spruce genus of plants

A spruce is a tree of the genus Picea, a genus of about 35 species of coniferous evergreen trees in the family Pinaceae, found in the northern temperate and boreal (taiga) regions of the Earth. Spruces are large trees, from about 20–60 m tall when mature, and have whorled branches and conical form. They can be distinguished from other members of the pine family by their needles (leaves), which are four-sided and attached singly to small persistent peg-like structures on the branches, and by their cones, which hang downwards after they are pollinated. The needles are shed when 4–10 years old, leaving the branches rough with the retained pegs. In other similar genera, the branches are fairly smooth.

Fir genus of plants

Firs (Abies) are a genus of 48–56 species of evergreen coniferous trees in the family Pinaceae. They are found through much of North and Central America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa, occurring in mountains over most of the range. Firs are most closely related to the genus Cedrus (cedar). Douglas firs are not true firs, being of the genus Pseudotsuga.


Kaibab Plateau from space Kaibab Plateau 2006-04-30 MODIS 250m.jpg
Kaibab Plateau from space

The Kaibab Plateau consists of approximately 1,152 square miles which are above 6,000 feet. The highest point has an elevation of 9,200 feet. The plateau is bounded on the south by the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, the elevation in this southern area of the plateau varies from 8,800 feet to slightly less than 6,000 feet.

The most extensive platform of the plateau is the Esplanade, which is called "Sand Rocks" by local cowboys. This area was formed as a result from weathering of the Hermit shale, which left a hard layer of Permian sandstone exposed. This red sandstone is one of the outstanding features of the plateau.

The plateau's western boundary is the Kanab Creek Canyon which high perpendicular walls form a natural barrier to the movement of most animals. The northwestern boundary of the plateau is marked by a fault line north of the Snake Gulch which is approximately sixteen miles to the east of the Kanab Creek. The eastern boundary is marked by the so-called Houserock Valley, which is a marble platform caused by a monoclinical fold, which strata dips down 2,000 to 3,000 feet. [2]


The climate of the Kaibab Plateau consists of rain and thunderstorms in late summer, snow, heavy at times, in winter, and drier weather in early summer. There was an average annual precipitation of 26.57 inches for the period 1925 to 1936. During winter, snow is heavy and often accumulates at a depth of eight to ten feet. June is the driest month of the year, followed by May and early July.

Storms occur several times each week until early September. The highest portions of the plateau are usually touched by snow, and snowstorms usually occur in May and September. [2]

Kaibab deer

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Kaibab Plateau was witness to an interesting experiment in what some might call population engineering. The plateau's pre-1905 population of mule deer was estimated to be around 4,000. This number was never confirmed by any kind of count or survey, and has become an accepted number mainly because no other estimate is available. The average carrying capacity of the land was unknown, in part because this concept was not widely used by naturalists at the time. Years later, Aldo Leopold estimated that the capacity had been about 30,000 deer.

Mule deer deer indigenous to western North America; named for large ears resembling mule

The mule deer is a deer indigenous to western North America; it is named for its ears, which are large like those of the mule. The several subspecies include the black-tailed deer.

Carrying capacity The maximum population size of the species that the environment can sustain indefinitely

The carrying capacity of a biological species in an environment is the maximum population size of the species that the environment can sustain indefinitely, given the food, habitat, water, and other necessities available in the environment. In population biology, carrying capacity is defined as the environment's maximal load, which is different from the concept of population equilibrium. Its effect on population dynamics may be approximated in a logistic model, although this simplification ignores the possibility of overshoot which real systems may exhibit.

Aldo Leopold American writer and scientist

Aldo Leopold was an American author, philosopher, scientist, ecologist, forester, conservationist, and environmentalist. He was a professor at the University of Wisconsin and is best known for his book A Sand County Almanac (1949), which has sold more than two million copies.

Kaibab deer from the DOCUMERICA series, a program sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency to photograph subjects of American environmental concern during the 1970s DEER IN KAIBAB NATIONAL FOREST, NEAR THE NORTH RIM OF GRAND CANYON - NARA - 544114.tif
Kaibab deer from the DOCUMERICA series, a program sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency to photograph subjects of American environmental concern during the 1970s

The idea in 1906 was simply to protect and expand the herd, so on November 28, President Theodore Roosevelt created the Grand Canyon National Game Preserve. Overgrazing by herds of sheep, cattle, and horses had taken place on the plateau since the 1880s. During that time, many predators were also killed by ranchers and bounty hunters. By the time Roosevelt established the game preserve, ranchers had moved most domestic livestock elsewhere. The primary change brought by the creation of the game preserve was to ban deer hunting. Government efforts, led by the United States Forest Service, began to protect the deer's numbers by killing off their natural predators once again; to this end, between 1907 and 1939, 816 mountain lions, 20 wolves, 7388 coyotes and over 500 bobcats were reportedly killed. [3]

Theodore Roosevelt 26th president of the United States

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was an American statesman, politician, conservationist, naturalist, and writer who served as the 26th president of the United States from 1901 to 1909. He served as the 25th vice president from March to September 1901 and as the 33rd governor of New York from 1899 to 1900. As a leader of the Republican Party, he became a driving force for the Progressive Era in the United States in the early 20th century. His face is depicted on Mount Rushmore alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. He is generally ranked in polls of historians and political scientists as one of the five best presidents.

United States Forest Service Federal forest and grassland administrators

The United States Forest Service (USFS) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that administers the nation's 154 national forests and 20 national grasslands, which encompass 193 million acres (780,000 km2). Major divisions of the agency include the National Forest System, State and Private Forestry, Business Operations, and the Research and Development branch. Managing approximately 25% of federal lands, it is the only major national land agency that is outside the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Cougar Large cat of the family Felidae native to the Americas

The cougar is a large felid of the subfamily Felinae. It is native to the Americas. Its range spans from the Canadian Yukon to the southern Andes in South America, and is the widest of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. It is an adaptable, generalist species, occurring in most American habitat types. Due to its wide range, it has many names including mountain lion, puma, red tiger, and catamount.

The deer population experienced a great increase in numbers during the early decades of the 20th century. One estimate put the population as high as 100,000 deer inhabiting the range in 1924. Again, there was no systematic survey to support this estimate, which may have been exaggerated to twice the actual number. Shortly after that time, however, the deer population did begin to decline from over-browsing. By the mid-1920s, many deer were starving to death.

After a heated legal dispute between the federal government and the state of Arizona, hunting was once more permitted, to reduce the deer's numbers. Hunters were able to kill only a small fraction of the starving deer. The range itself was damaged, and its carrying capacity was greatly reduced.

X Fire Tree Planting Restoration Project, Kaibab National Forest Hoedad2-Kaibab-Nat-Forest.jpg
X Fire Tree Planting Restoration Project, Kaibab National Forest

Prey and predator population dynamics

Once ecologists began to study the area and reflect on the changes that had occurred there, they began to use the Kaibab deer as a simple lesson about how the removal of the deer's natural predators, which had been done in the interest of preserving the deer population, had allowed the deer to over-reproduce, and quickly overwhelm the plateau's resources. Some ecologists suggested that the situation highlighted the importance of keeping a population in balance with its environment's carrying capacity.

The more meaningful lesson of the Kaibab suggests that human efforts to protect wildlife and preserve wild areas must be balanced with ecological complexity and social priorities that are difficult to predict. Changes take place, sometimes rapidly, but their effects linger for decades. Today, the Arizona Game Commission manages the area, controlling the numbers of deer as well as predators, and issues hunting permits to keep the deer in balance with the range. [4]

Kaibab Lake Campground in the Williams Ranger District, Kaibab National Forest Kaibab Lake Campground.jpg
Kaibab Lake Campground in the Williams Ranger District, Kaibab National Forest

Although the story of the Kaibab deer rose to fame in the 1920s due to their sudden increase and decrease in population, the story can also be used to demonstrate the way in which scientific studies and ideas about history can help educate current students. The first interpretation of the deer story as demonstrated in textbooks was that predator control had destroyed the deer’s population growth. It was thought that initially the high number of deer predators were obtruding the growth of the deer’s population, therefore rules were put in place in order to minimize the predator population and allow the deer to increase their population size. However, as scientific studies continued, ecologist Greame Caughley suggested that predator control alone could not have caused the Kaibab irruption, but rather factors like climate, grazing by other animals, and preservation policies actually had more significant impacts on the deer [5]

Caughley’s opinion led to confusion by teachers and scientists over what to include and teach in ecology and biology classes, therefore this story stopped being used as an example of prey and predator population dynamics. This is important to the development of scientific studies because it shows that events—-like the Kaibab deer controversy—-do not have a definitive start and beginning but include other opinions and approaches which teachers use to showcase the richness of controversy.

The Kaibab deer controversy has revolutionized the way science is taught in textbooks, and the way students question ecology and biology. In addition, students now learn that human intervention can lead to big repercussions regarding specific animal’s population and development in certain regions.

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Grand Canyon A steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in Arizona, United States

The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in Arizona, United States. The Grand Canyon is 277 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and attains a depth of over a mile.

Geology of the Grand Canyon area

The geology of the Grand Canyon area includes one of the most complete and studied sequences of rock on Earth. The nearly 40 major sedimentary rock layers exposed in the Grand Canyon and in the Grand Canyon National Park area range in age from about 200 million to nearly 2 billion years old. Most were deposited in warm, shallow seas and near ancient, long-gone sea shores in western North America. Both marine and terrestrial sediments are represented, including lithified sand dunes from an extinct desert. There are at least 14 known unconformities in the geologic record found in the Grand Canyon.

Kaibab National Forest

At 1.6 million acres the Kaibab National Forest borders both the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon, in north-central Arizona. It is divided into three major sections: the North Kaibab Ranger District and the South Kaibab and are managed by the United States Forest Service. The South Kaibab is further divided into two districts, the Tusayan Ranger District, and the Williams Ranger District. Grand Canyon National Park separates the North Kaibab and the South Kaibab. The South Kaibab covers 1,422 square miles (3,680 km2) and the North Kaibab stretches over 1,010 square miles (2,600 km2). Elevations vary on the forest from 5,500 feet in the southwest corner to 10,418 feet at the summit of Kendrick Peak on the Williams Ranger District. The forest as a whole is headquartered in Williams.

Arizona Strip part of Arizona north of the Colorado River, having more physical/cultural connections with southern Utah and Nevada than the rest of Arizona due to the difficulty of crossing the Grand Canyon, whose largest settlements are Colorado City and Fredonia

The Arizona Strip is the part of Arizona lying north of the Colorado River. The difficulty of crossing the Grand Canyon causes this region to have more physical and cultural connections with southern Utah and Nevada than with the rest of Arizona. The largest settlements in the Strip are Colorado City and Fredonia.

The Coconino Plateau is found south of the Grand Canyon and north-northwest of Flagstaff, in northern Arizona of the Southwestern United States.

Kaibab Limestone

The Kaibab Limestone is a resistant cliff-forming, Permian geologic formation that crops out across the U.S. states of northern Arizona, southern Utah, east central Nevada and southeast California. It is also known as the Kaibab Formation in Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. The Kaibab Limestone forms the rim of the Grand Canyon. In the Big Maria Mountains, California, the Kaibab Limestone is highly metamorphosed and known as the Kaibab Marble.

Mount Trumbull Wilderness

The Mount Trumbull Wilderness is a 7,880 acre (31 km2) wilderness area located on the Uinkaret Plateau in the Arizona Strip. It is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Kanab Creek river in the United States of America

Kanab Creek is one of the many tributaries of the Colorado River. It begins in Kane County, Utah, just south of the watershed to the Great Basin and flows 125 miles (201 km) south to the Colorado River.

Jacob Lake, Arizona human settlement in Arizona, United States of America

Jacob Lake is a small unincorporated community on the Kaibab Plateau in Coconino County, Arizona, United States, at the junction of U.S. Route 89A and State Route 67. Named after the Mormon explorer Jacob Hamblin, the town is known as the "Gateway to the Grand Canyon" because it is the starting point of Route 67, the only paved road leading to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon some 44 miles to the south. The town itself consists of the Jacob Lake Inn which maintains motel rooms and cabins, a restaurant, lunch counter, gift shop, bakery, and general store; a gas station/garage; campground; and a visitors center run by the U.S. Forest Service. In the summer months, there is also a nearby center for horse rides.

Kanab Creek Trail

The Kanab Creek Trail is a hiking trail on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park, located in the U.S. state of Arizona. It is named after the adjacent Kanab Creek.

Kanab Creek Wilderness

Kanab Creek Wilderness is a 75,300-acre (305 km2) wilderness area located along the Coconino/Mohave County line in the U.S. state of Arizona, approximately 30 miles (48 km) south of Fredonia. 68,600 acres (278 km2) of the Wilderness are located in the North Kaibab Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest, the remaining 6,700 acres (27 km2) are administered by the Arizona Bureau of Land Management.

Geography of Arizona

Arizona is a landlocked state situated in the southwestern region of the United States of America. It has a vast and diverse geography famous for its deep canyons, high- and low-elevation deserts, numerous natural rock formations, and volcanic mountain ranges. Arizona shares land borders with Utah to the north, the Mexican state of Sonora to the south, New Mexico to the east, and Nevada to the northwest, as well as water borders with California and the Mexican state of Baja California to the southwest along the Colorado River. Arizona is also one of the Four Corners states and is diagonally adjacent to Colorado.

The Great Western Trail is a north-south long distance multiple use route which runs from Canada to Mexico through five western states in the United States. The trail has access for both motorized and non-motorized users and traverses 4,455 miles (7,170 km) through Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. Designated a National Millennium Trail.

Buckskin Mountains (Arizona-Utah)

The Buckskin Mountains on the Arizona-Utah border, is about a 15-mile (24 km) long mountain range divided almost equally in the counties of Coconino County, Arizona, and Kane County, Utah.

Kanab Plateau

The Kanab Plateau is a 45-mile long plateau located at the north of the Grand Canyon. The plateau is adjacent west of the Kaibab Plateau of the North Rim, with a basin containing the Kanab Creek watershed in between. The basin is the site of the Kanab Creek Wilderness, with Snake Gulch at its north perimeter, and at the base of the Kanab Plateau, forming its southeast border.

Toroweap Formation

The Middle Permian Toroweap Formation is a thin, darker geologic unit, between the brighter colored units of the Kaibab Limestone above, and Coconino Sandstone below. It is a prominent unit in Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA, found through sections of the South Rim, Grand Canyon, and the North Rim, of the Kaibab Plateau; also the Kaibab's southeast extension to Cape Royal, the Walhalla Plateau. The Colorado River of the Grand Canyon makes its excursion from due-south to due-west around the Walhalla Plateau, as it enters the east end of the Grand Canyon's interior, Granite Gorge. The formation is also found in southeast Utah.

Grand Canyon Supergroup

The Grand Canyon Supergroup is a Mesoproterozoic to Neoproterozoic sequence of sedimentary strata, mostly exposed in the eastern Grand Canyon of Arizona. This group is composed of the Unkar Group, Nankoweap Formation, Chuar Group and the Sixtymile Formation, which overlie Vishnu Basement Rocks. Several notable landmarks of the Grand Canyon, such as the "Isis Temple and Cheops Pyramid" and the "Apollo Temple," are surface manifestations of the Grand Canyon Supergroup.

Marble Canyon Dam dam in Coconino County, Arizona

The Marble Canyon Dam, also known as the Redwall Dam, was a proposed dam on the Colorado River in Arizona. The dam was intended to impound a relatively small reservoir in the central portion of Marble Canyon to develop hydroelectric power. Plans centered on two sites between miles 30 and 40 in the canyon. At one point a 38-mile (61 km) tunnel was proposed to a site just outside Grand Canyon National Park to develop the site's full power generation potential, reducing the Colorado River to a trickle through the park.


  1. Land Use History of the Colorado Plateau Archived 2005-12-19 at the Wayback Machine
  2. 1 2 Rasmussen, Irwin, Biotic Communities of Kaibab Plateau, Arizona Ecological Monographs, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Jul., 1941), pp. 229-275 https://www.jstor.org/stable/1943204
  3. Young, Chris. "A history of the Kaibab deer".
  4. "Grand Canyon officials to make another run at corralling and reducing bison herd". Associated Press. September 2, 2019. Retrieved September 3, 2019 via Los Angeles Times.
  5. Young, Chris, A Textbook History: Use of the Kaibab Lesson in Teaching Biology

Coordinates: 36°7′36″N112°0′32″W / 36.12667°N 112.00889°W / 36.12667; -112.00889