Natural Quality applies to those features in the visual environment that are in a relatively undisturbed state. These features predate the arrival of human populations and may include geological formations, fossils, land form, water bodies, vegetation,and wildlife. There may be evidence of human activity, but the natural features reveal minimal disturbances.
Natural intrinsic qualities abound along Utah’s Patchwork Parkway. Such qualities include geological formations, paleontological phenomenon, vegetationand wildlife. Because the road passes through different ecosystems, vegetation and wildlife are quite diverse. Factors such as elevation, temperature, available moisture, soil makeup and slope direction effect plant distribution. Erosion has played a major role in exposing many geologic formations throughout the corridor. The crown jewel of these formations is Cedar Breaks National Monument, a 2,000 foot deep amphitheater eroded from the Claron formation.
The vegetation, wildlife and geology of the area become a living laboratory for those interested in natural and geologic aspects of the journey. For others it is simply a vivid display of color and natural sculpture that attracts their attention on this scenic drive. The Markagunt Plateau is important because the natural lakes, riparian areas and high mountain habitat provide for a wide variety of wildlife. More than 350 fish and wildlifespecies live on the plateau. Utah prairie dog, peregrine falcon, three-toed woodpecker, northern goshawk, sage grouse, and boreal toads are some species of special interest found along the Parkway. World-class hunting opportunities for mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk, pronghorn antelope and black bear abound.
Sixteen species of rare plants also exist on the plateau. Several plants grow only on habitats provided by unique rock formations. Some of the last remaining tall for plant communities remaining in Utah are found on the plateau. Brian Head hosts an annual week-long Field Ecology course in June. Teachers use state-of-the-art equipment to learn various surveying techniques. They are also instructed how to take field notes, analyze data, and other research skills vital to strengthen secondary school science curriculums. The abundance and diversity of natural resources were vital to sustaining early Native American cultures, early explorers and Mormon settlers. These included unique silica deposits and timber as well as other natural resources.