“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Shonto in Navajo County, Arizona — The American Mountains (Southwest)

A Relict Forest

Navajo National Monument

A Relict Forest Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, May 24, 2016
1. A Relict Forest Marker
Inscription.  Before you lies a small tributary of the Tsegi Canyon watershed. A quaking aspen grove graces the canyon floor, while the north-facing cliff (right) offers shady habitat for towering Douglas-fir trees.

Thriving here in this desert wilderness is an unexpected deciduous forest. The steep canyon walls, seeping precious moisture into the basin at the canyon head, have preserved a shaded and humid environment. Water-loving plants and trees that would be more at home on mountain slopes find refuge here. These isolated pockets of unanticipated landscapes are called relict forests — survivors from an ice age environment that they dominated some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago.

1 • The large, dark turkey vulture is known for its keen eyesight and uncanny sense of smell — ideal for scavenging.

2 • The red-stemmed redosier dogwood forms a dense thicket of shrubs along the canyon floor. Their delicate white blossoms mature into white berries, providing forage for a variety of animals and birds.

3 • Water birch forms thickets about 25 feet in height along the canyon bottom. Usually found along
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mountain streams, water birch is the only birch native to the Southwest.

4 • Usually a mountain species, the tall Douglas-fir thrives in the deep shade of high-walled Betatakin Canyon. The early Anasazi (Hisatsinom) found the strength and rigidity of this wood ideal for roof building. One of the trees below is over 700 years old — present when these early people lived here.

5 • The white-trunked quaking aspen thrives at high elevations and in northwestern lands of North America. The presence of aspen and Douglas-fir here reminds us that climates in the Southwest were once much cooler and wetter.

6 • Barely two inches long, the olive to gray-brown canyon tree frog clings with padded toes to rocks and trees along the canyon floor. Though the frog is camouflaged, its duck-like calls can be heard after early summer rains.

7 • The rare, dark-eyed spotted owl finds refuge in the old growth of this moist, cool canyon. The loss of mature forests elsewhere threatens the survival of this shy, nocturnal predator.
Erected by National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Natural Features.
Location. 36° 40.813′ N, 110° 32.395′ 
A Relict Forest Marker • <i>wide view<br>(Betatakin Canyon in background)</i> image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, May 24, 2016
2. A Relict Forest Marker • wide view
(Betatakin Canyon in background)
W. Marker is near Shonto, Arizona, in Navajo County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of State Highway 564 and County Route 221. Marker is located along the Aspen Forest Overlook Trail about 4/10 mile northeast of the Navajo National Monument Visitor Center. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Shonto AZ 86054, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Douglas Fir (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Rabbit Brush (about 400 feet away); Gambel Oak (about 400 feet away); Serviceberry (about 400 feet away); Indian Rice Grass (about 500 feet away); Big Sagebrush (about 700 feet away); Wagon (about 700 feet away); The Pygmy Conifer Forest - An Indian Store (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Shonto.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Aspen Forest Overlook Trail, Navajo National Monument
Aspen Forest Overlook Trailhead Sign<br>(<i>beginning of this trail, about 4/10 mile uphill</i>) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, May 24, 2016
3. Aspen Forest Overlook Trailhead Sign
(beginning of this trail, about 4/10 mile uphill)
This trail leads to a dramatic view of Betatakin Canyon at an observation point 300 feet below the canyon rim. Douglas-fir, quaking aspen, and plants uncommon to the Colorado Plateau can be seen in the lush forest below.

The trail is an eight-tenths-mile round trip. It is NOT a route to Betatakin Ruin or the canyon floor. The ruins are NOT visible from any point below.

Please stay on the trail and do not venture into the closed area. Rockslides have blocked access and created dangerous conditions beyond the viewpoint.
Betatakin Canyon (<i>view from Aspen Forest Overlook Trail</i>) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, May 24, 2016
4. Betatakin Canyon (view from Aspen Forest Overlook Trail)
Credits. This page was last revised on January 14, 2020. It was originally submitted on January 13, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 209 times since then and 8 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on January 14, 2020, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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Feb. 20, 2024