|Red Butte Canyon is a protected, near pristine canyon entering Salt Lake Valley, Utah. It contains a well-developed riparian zone and a perennial stream; hillside vegetation ranges from grasslands on the lower limits to Douglas-fir and aspen stands at the upper elevations. In this website we describe the history of human impact, natural history aspects of climate, geology, and ecology, and faunal and floral information for key species in the canyon. The role and importance of Research Natural Areas is discussed, particularly with respect to the need to protect Red Butte Canyon - one of the few remaining undisturbed riparian ecosystems in the Intermountain West.
Red Butte Canyon, one of many canyons in the Wasatch Range of Utah, opens westward into Salt Lake Valley, immediately east of the University of Utah. Like most canyons along the Wasatch Front, it is a grassland at the lowest elevations, is forested at its upper end, and has a perennial stream. What makes this canyon unusual in its history. The canyon was the watershed for Fort Douglas, the U.S. Army post built in 1862 that overlooked Salt Lake City. As a protected watershed, these lands were, for the most part, kept free from grazing, farming, and other human-impact activities. When the U.S. Army declared these lands surplus in 1969, the U.S. Forest Service assumed responsibility for the canyon. Since that time, Red Butte Canyon has been kept in its protected state and designated a Research Natural Area (RNA).