Snow Canyon State Park developing new trail to educate visitors about the desert tortoise

Supported by community fundraising efforts, Utah’s Snow Canyon State Park is in the process of developing a trail designed to inform visitors about the Mojave desert tortoise. The Tortoise Education Trail is scheduled to be the first new trail built within the park in more than a decade.

The trail will showcase perhaps the most compelling and hotly debated creature found in Snow Canyon. Park naturalist Jenny Dawn Stucki said that park managers have spent years brainstorming a way to answer visitor questions about the desert tortoise while highlighting the importance of recreating responsibly within its habitat.

“It’s all tied together,” she said. “Knowing they’re here and understanding more about them helps to enhance appreciation of our landscape across the board.”

The project is currently in the planning and design process; Stucki said that many components still need to come together before breaking ground. When complete, the trail will feature several informational panels providing visitors with insight on the desert tortoise and its habitat, diet, family life, adaptations, survival and conservation, as well as ways to be mindful and appreciative of its presence in the park.

Cameron Rognan, administrator of the Washington County Habitat Conservation Plan, highlighted the importance of visitor education in the preservation of vulnerable species like the desert tortoise as the recreational demand on southwest Utah’s public lands continues to rise. By providing both designated trails and learning opportunities, Rognan said that Snow Canyon and other parks can enhance the visitor experience while protecting native wildlife and habitat.

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