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April 19, 2018

Even More Red Rocks

by Rosemary West

On our way into Zion National Park, we stopped to observe wild turkeys and bighorn sheep. The turkeys fled a second after this photo was snapped, but the sheep remained calm and kept on grazing.



Zion is in a region that was formed over many millions of years, the result of sedimentation, pressure, uplift, and erosion. The Virgin River and smaller streams have carved deep canyons into the rock layers. All of these processes are still going on.

We were able to drive along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive because we were there during the off-season. During tourist season, only park shuttles are permitted on the drive. Zion is extremely popular; despite the season and the bitterly cold weather, this was the most crowded of the five national parks we visited in Utah. The park gets so crowded during tourist season that its managers are considering implementing a reservation system.

As usual, we stopped at all the viewpoints and turnouts along the way.



An impressive balancing act.


The park is characterized by massive, steep cliffs.


Snow highlights the feature that gave Checkerboard Mesa its name.


There are many arches in the making. The park also has some completed arches, accessible by hiking.

The mineral content in the rocks varies, leading to a wide variety of colors and textures.






Plants get a foothold in cracks and crevices, helping to speed the process of erosion.


The dark coating seen on some of these rocks is known as "desert varnish" or "rock varnish". Clay and oxidized minerals, especially manganese, adhere to the hard rock surface.


This group of three huge sandstone peaks is known as the "Court of the Patriarchs".

Considering the weather and trail conditions, we decided not to take any of the steep, narrow hiking trails, but we did walk along a section of the Riverside Walk.



I was well prepared, with a thermal base layer, three pairs of pants, two shirts, a down jacket, wool socks and cap, a scarf, and gloves.



The steep canyon gets narrower and narrower, eventually leading to a section aptly called the Narrows, where there is no trail but the river itself. This was not the right time of year to go wading!



Despite frigid conditions, some green plants seemed to be thriving.


"Leaflets three, let it be." I wasn't convinced this was really poison ivy, but I didn't test it.




All of the parks we visited in Utah shared a common theme: geological processes. They all had rock formations, exposed sedimentary layers, and plenty of red. Yet each one was different. We never went through a park with the feeling that we had just seen the same thing somewhere else. With its vast landscapes and magnificent parks, Utah was the most spectacular state we visited.


Note: We were here in February.

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1 comment >>

  1. It's a good thing you didn't touch try that poison ivy, it's the real thing.

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