ST. GEORGE — The Subaru Leave No Trace organization has named Mossy Cave in Bryce Canyon National Park a 2022 Hot Spot.
“Mossy Cave in the park was a favorite spot for local residents. However, after it began showing up in social media posts and unofficial travel websites, visitation rose quickly,” Peter Densmore, public information officer at Bryce Canyon National Park said. “In recent summer months, up to 5,000 people per week have been recreating along the 0.4-mile-long corridor, with June 2019 seeing a spike of nearly 7,000 people per week.
This situation has led to a second parking lot being constructed in the Mossy Cave area to accommodate the rising visitation and to help reduce illegal parking along the busy shoulder of State Route 12.
Mossy Cave is a hanging garden-type spring — an ecologically unique and important feature in such an arid landscape. The area has seen more visitors ignoring the barriers and entering the shallow cave formed by the spring. Mossy Cave is also located on the ancestral lands of the Pueblos, Ute, Southern Paiute and possibly other tribes.
“This activity can quite easily damage and even destroy the delicate mosses, lichens, and speleothems located within,” Densmore said.
A Subaru Leave No Trace Team will work with the National Park Service on a Hot Spot event from August 25 to August 29. It will be open to the public and provide information, service work and education. Their goal is to increase awareness and help reduce impacts on this and other popular areas
Through nationwide nominations, Leave No Trace selects Hot Spot locations each year. Places that make the final cut are popular outdoor areas that have experienced heavy recreational use and human-created impacts. Those impacts include excessive trash, trail erosion, disturbance to wildlife, damage to vegetation and more. Hot Spots events empower people to be the solution to these impacts in their communities, an essential objective of the Leave No Trace organization, according to a news release.
“Hot spot locations are heavily damaged but can recover with the help of a motivated community and an encompassing infusion of Leave No Trace programming. Centered around training, these efforts include a series of targeted workshops for local land managers, partners and volunteers, as well as community outreach events for the public conducted by expert Leave No Trace educators,” said Dana Watts, executive director of the Leave No Trace organization. “Our goal is to put these Hot Spot areas on the road to recovery while also creating aspirational guidance and recommendations for public lands across the globe.”
Densmore said Bryce Canyon’s heavy recreation use includes hiking off-trail to reach the water at various points along the trail and specially to reach the waterfall located near the trail’s end. Several social trails also lead up steep and unstable slopes to hoodoos above the trail.
“These unofficial trails not only damage our native plant populations and make recovery difficult by compacting the sediment but have led to accelerated erosion, especially along the stream banks. No camping, horse riding, or other modes of transportation, other than hiking, are permitted at Mossy Cave,” Densmore said.”
There’s also been a proliferation of social trails, human-caused erosion, and unsafe behaviors such as climbing up to hoodoos. Densmore said that this is not only unsafe and unsightly, but it easily damages the fragile vegetation and increases rates of erosion. Plus, in the case of climbing up to hoodoos, it potentially hurts the iconic features Bryce Canyon was established to protect. Additionally, there have been increases in litter, human waste, toilet paper, and pet waste, even though pets aren’t allowed on this trail.
“The park recognizes that many of these issues will be helped by new management strategies for the Mossy Cave area,” Densmore said. “Whether this includes modifications or expansions of trails, improved signage, increased ranger presence, or awareness campaigns. We anticipate that the Leave No Trace Hot Spot program will help provide us with a sustainable framework for these discussions. By adapting to how our visitors, and how many visitors, are enjoying the Mossy Cave Trail, we can ensure the preservation and protection of this special part of the park for generations to come.”
The following events are free and open to the public:
Friday, August 26
- 2-4 pm: Create your Own Leave No Trace Pack Out Bag. Family-friendly activity at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center Plaza focused on disposing of waste properly. Visitors will leave with a kid-friendly reusable trash bag to help protect and care for natural areas.
- 8:30 – 9:30 pm: Water in the Desert: Geology and History of Mossy Cave. Evening presentation at the North Campground Outdoor Theater on the natural and cultural history of Mossy Cave, the history of Tropic Ditch and how to minimize impacts while visiting these special places.
Saturday, August 27
- 9 a.m. – noon.: Stewardship Service Project: Trash Pickup and Trail Impacts Survey. Join Leave No Trace and the National Park Service for a family-friendly volunteer day cleaning up and documenting impacts along the Mossy Cave Trail.
- 8:30 – 9:30 pm: How to be the Best Sasquatch You Can. Evening presentation at the North Campground Outdoor Theater focuses on Leave No Trace outdoor ethics, minimizing our impacts and how to protect your favorite outdoor spaces.
Sunday, August 28
- 9 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.: Ranger-guided walks at Mossy Cave. Meet at the Mossy Cave trailhead for ranger-guided walks about the geology and history of Mossy Cave and learn how leave No Trace practices can help protect this special area.
- 2-4 pm: Public and Visitor Outreach. Leave No Trace staff will be at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center Plaza educating visitors about Leave No Trace skills and ethics, minimizing our impacts and enjoying the outdoors responsibly.
The mission of Leave No Trace is to use science, education and stewardship to support and protect nature. Leave No Trace is on a mission to ensure a sustainable future for the outdoors and the planet.
Subaru Leave No Trace traveling team members are mobile teams of educators who provide hands-on educational outreach to individuals and groups across the USA
For more information visit Bryce Canyon National Park calendar page or the Leave No Trace Hot Spot event page.
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