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Stirring the Pothole: Should we care?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Zach Olson, Feb 28, 2019.

  1. Zach Olson

    Zach Olson

    I recently had a discussion with a coworker on the impacts to pothole aquatic life by canyoneers on the Colorado Plateau. Did a little research and found this fascinating scientific paper about pothole formation and how the biology actually impacts pothole erosion/creation.

    From the abstract:

    “This complex biofilm is persumably(sic) responsible for dissolving the cement between the sandstone grains, allowing the potholes to enlarge, and for sealing the potholes, enabling them to retain water longer than the surrounding sandstone. Despite the remarkable ability of life in potholes to persist, desert pot-holes may be extremely sensitive to anthropogenic effects.”

    I’ll be plainly honest that I don’t plan to stop splashing through canyon potholes anytime soon but I am curious everybody’s thoughts on how the sport ethic can address preserving the aquatic habitat.

    Should we care about this?

    What methods can we use to reduce impact?

    How can we anticipate land management officials regulating pothole disturbance?

    Is it responsible to publish canyon routes (thereby increasing traffic) through this ecology?

    Is this making a mountain out of a molehill?
    NorthBound and Ram like this.
  2. Jenny


    Zach, in my opinion on this topic, I do not think you are making a mountain out of a molehill at all. I think in the big picture, we need to be concerned with the molehills as well as the mountains! I recall being very concerned about my/our first tromp through the aquatic pools in Poe (back in 1981). Just two sets of feet moving through these fragile environments left noticeable disturbance. I've been back through Poe twice and noted that those eco systems did not recover at all, or if at all, unnoticeable to my searching eye.

    Sometimes, it is only the first person through a pothole that may notice the life there. Then the swirl of mud protects the next passer-byers (I made up that word) from noticing?

    What to do about it? Don't be out front and you won't notice? Perhaps invent a new "ghosting" tool where the challenge becomes bypassing all pools. A new technique of penduluming (I made up that word) over all swimmers. Ha, I jest (sort of). At least, I think we should all be aware of the water habitats that we do disturb. All of them. I haven't stopped splashing through the canyon potholes either and don't intend to stop soon. Though, as hunters often do, perhaps we should ofter thanks, pass on a thought of gratitude and hold a level of responsibility and humility for the life we may have diminished in our quest for play.

    Yay for mountains! Yay for moles and their hills.
  3. Canyon Monkey

    Canyon Monkey Useful Idiot

    I think some pothole swims are way worse for us then the aquatic life :)
  4. Canyonero


    I can't imagine the damage we do is more than what happens 5-10 times a year during flash floods.

    That said I have tried to stop using sunscreen in canyons.
  5. Yellow Dart

    Yellow Dart It's only hubris if I fail.

    La Verkin
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