Tag Archives: Wildlife

Alstrom Point, Lake Powell – Part 5 The Kangaroo Rat

One of the few creatures you will find up on Alstrom Point is the Kangaroo Rat. Another is the Western Diamond-Backed Rattlesnake, so be careful.

The Kangaroo Rat is neither a Kangaroo nor a Rat, but it is definitely a hopping rodent. This particular one found our campsite at night and despite our best efforts to keep the area clean managed to find some tidbits. He was slightly timid, would move quickly, freeze, grab some morsel and hop away with lightning speed to an unseen burrow.

Alstrom Point Kangaroo Rat
Alstrom Point Kangaroo Rat at night

Kangaroo Rats are very well suited to the desert. They survive simply by breaking down the seeds they eat with their metabolism and do not need to drink water! They can also conserve water by lowering their metabolic rate when hot and dry.

I’m not sure which specific species this is but you can find more information on the Wikipedia Kangaroo Rat page. My guess would be a Merriam’s Kangaroo Rat.

Unfortunately later that evening we heard a slight rattle of a Western Diamondback and upon investigating a juvenile was located with the tail of this fuzzy snake-snack protruding out of his jaws. Sorry little guy.

Kangaroo Rat
Kangaroo Rat

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!