Prehistoric Monsters on Lake Powell

Water Pocket Plunge Pool Lake Powell
Water Pocket Plunge Pool Lake Powell
On one boating trip on Lake Powell in 1997 after a monsoon we encountered a dramatically different environment than the hot, dry landscape of the early summer. After beaching the boat to explore the slickrock near Antelope Island we found a curious pool up about 20 feet higher than the lake level.

How did this pool fill?

Water from some heavy monsoon rains had flowed along the undulating slickrock recently, just like it has for millions of years, finding its way into a deep pocket and filling it with silt, minerals and all the organic material it had collected along the way. The slightly cloudy water gave it a unique color quality and that’s what caught my attention.

Approaching the pool I was alarmed to see some unknown creatures swimming about it. I didn’t know if they were animals, insects or aliens. I was trapped between curiosity and repulsion, so I apologize for the lack of focus.

Horseshoe Shrimp in a Pool
Horseshoe Shrimp in a Pool

They swam about seemingly with no regard to up or down, a few dozen EYELESS monsters in a pool above Lake Powell.

I scooped one up in my sandal to take a picture before running back to the boat in horror.

Horseshoe Shrimp
Horseshoe Shrimp on a Teva Sandal

It was about 6 months later at the Toroweap (Tuweep) point of the Grand Canyon I encountered a posting at the entrance from the Park Service that had a picture of these creatures as dried up, lifeless examples of prehistoric life that can be found in the area. Not much more information was available and no names were given.

It was about 5 years later, with access to the Internet, that I remembered these creatures on Lake Powell and did some googling. Turns out that they are likely Cephalocarida, prehistoric crustaceans that can lay dormant in mud for decades waiting for rain. They’re some of the oldest known species on Earth!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *