Chasing Storms in Zion

2005 zion flood3Zion National Park is probably my favorite place on earth.  I know there are places bigger and grander (like Yosemite and Yellowstone), but Zion, even though small compared to those, has more CONCENTRATED beauty jammed into that little area of southern Utah than any other place I know.

My grandparents lived in a little town half an hour from Zion.  I went there all the time as a kid…so I’m a little biased.  Zion is heaven to me…and if you want to be my friend, you’ll agree.  Once when we drove through, one of my young kids asked, “Why do you like this place, Mom?  It’s just a desert.”

I was flabbergasted and wondered if my child had been switched with another at birth…for MY children should LOVE Zion.

I forgave her for her insensitive thoughts…and over the years, I’m happy to say, she has matured and now LOVES Zion.  Little kids sometimes say the darnedest things.

Zion is always inspiring…but it is extraordinarily stunning during a rainstorm.

Rain is always a welcome occurrence in the desert…and this was especially the case at my grandparents house.  Whenever it rained, we’d jump into the car and rush around the LaVerkin hills and then up the mesa toward Zion to see if we could witness flash floods and upstart waterfalls in the area.   We became STORM CHASERS.

I loved chasing storms.  I loved seeing the Virgin river frothing and churning as it rushed out of Zion.  It looked like chocolate milk–with red dye mixed into it, and a few big tree branches, boulders and whatever else was swept along from up the canyon.

zion flood2Rain makes the red, black and white sandstone in Zion and the surrounding area very vivid…and the waterfalls…well, they speak for themselves.

I am filled with awe when I look at a spot that is usually void of water (I’m talking VERY VOID of water)…and see a rushing stream spring up from out of nowhere.  It’s spellbinding…like a Harry Potter spell.

zion flood

If you’re ever lucky enough to be in Zion when it rains, don’t forget your camera.  Try to capture the awesome power and majesty of desert water moving through slotted canyons, picturesque sandstone formations and a lovely winding valley dotted with deer (who aren’t scared of anything but Boy Scouts).  You’ll get good pictures…but nothing can capture the experience of just being there.  That feeling you get when you see the Storm caught up in the canyon walls of Zion will stay with you forever.

It is a sacred experience watching clouds move against the cliffs and see dozens of waterfalls instantly form.  In the Midwest, there are tornado chasers…and I don’t think I’d do that (because tornadoes scare me almost as bad as cows).

Chasing rain in Zion and chasing tornadoes in Kansas differ slightly in intensity.  But I kind of understand their mentality…for every time it rained when we were at Grandpa and Grandma’s, we’d all look at each other…and then run to the car with our heart bursting with excitement and anticipation.  Nature is better than any so-called reality show on television.

A desert rainstorm is quick and fast, and if you don’t chase after it, it’ll be gone before you can say, “Gomer Pyle.”   The scorching sun will be back, erasing traces that water ever moved through some of those colorful places.  So you have to run.

Even though desert storms are short…they sure pack a punch.   Zion is the same.   It’s a tiny National Park…but boy, does it pack a punch.  When you go there…you’ll be changed forever.

P1020381But I am biased.

How can I not be when it looks like this!  The storm is moving on.  Blue skies are returning and within 20-30 minutes the spectacular water that was gushing from cliffs and through the river canyon will taper down and disappear.  The only proof that those waterfalls existed are the black water marks etched into the red and white sandstone cliffs.

But they’ll be back…someday when you’re least expecting it (just don’t be hiking down the Narrows when that happens…but that’s a post for another time).


5 thoughts on “Chasing Storms in Zion

    • Sorry you couldn’t have seen this. There definitely is a lot of BORING out in the middle of Utah and Nevada, but southern Utah packs a punch with all the desert color.

  1. Love this!! We’re going to have to plan a trip on weekend that is supposed to be rainy!!! 🙂 We only had beautiful blue skies when we went a couple of weeks ago. My kids loved it, they thought the red roads were cool 🙂

  2. How beautiful! I visited Zion in 2010 with my parents during my spring break. My dad became obsessed with visiting American national parks (he is from France) and I decided, oh what the hell, the parents are paying for the trip, I’ll go along. I had no idea there were so many parks in southern Utah! I would love go back out there someday and visit again. You are not biased, Zion is truly exquisite. Thanks for sharing!

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