Red Butte Canyon Natural Research Area

General Information

Red Butte Canyon, a Research Natural Area, is located directly east of Salt Lake City and the University of Utah campus. Consisting of 7.25 square miles of watershed, it is the smallest of seven canyons in eastern Salt Lake County. Maintained as a protected watershed by the U.S. Forest Service, the Red Butte Canyon RNA provides a unique opportunity for addressing important issues to human society and to the preservation of our environment. Since the inception of the RNA Program in 1927, there have been two primary purposes for Research Natural Areas: 1) to preserve a representative array of all significant natural ecosystems and their inherent processes as baseline areas; 2) to obtain, through scientific education and research, information about natural system components, inherent processes, and comparisons with representative manipulated systems.

Red Butte Canyon is located conveniently close to the University of Utah campus and includes the Red Butte Arboretum at the mouth of the canyon, which is a public garden also offering its own classes and events.

Selected Research

Climate monitoring network

Ecophysiology of boxelder, a dioecious riparian tree

Water relations of riparian tree communities

Ecohydrology studies of Red Butte Canyon

Selected Education

The University of Utah offers courses in Biology, Ecology, Geology, and Meteorology with lab experiences involving the Red Butte Canyon RNA. Each semester, students, with their professors, experience the "untouched" beauty and ecology of Red Butte Canyon.

Contact Information

For research
John Sperry
257 S 1400 E
Department of Biology
University of Utah
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

For general information
Salt Lake Ranger District
U.S. Forest Service
Salt Lake City, Utah
Tel. 801-943-1794


Salt Lake County, Red Butte Canyon, Salt Lake City.
Headquarters: 40° 46' N, 110° 50' W longitude


7.25 square miles

Elevation range

1497-2195 m

Annual Precipitation

450-850 mm

Average Minimum and Maximum Annual Temperatures

Jan. -2C°; July 23 °C


No facilities


No on-site manager


Flora and fauna lists, weather stations, hydrological data, GIS shape files