Of all the spectacular scenery in southern Utah, the top of the chain is Bryce Canyon National Park. Well, almost the very top of the chain. The uppermost is nearby at Cedar Breaks National Monument, but that’s a story for another post.
The Colorado Plateau is an immense region in southern Utah, northern Arizona, southwest Colorado, and northwest New Mexico of stacked sedimentary rock layers that was uplifted from sea level to heights just over 9,000 feet in places. But it happened without getting all “scrunched up” into jagged mountain peaks like happened to the Rocky Mountains and Cascade Mountains. It’s like a massive layer cake whose layers stayed level (with some local exceptions) as it was raised up into the sky.
The entire sequence of geologic layers has come to be branded the Grand Staircase. It’s called that by geologists and tourist agencies alike, because the beauty appeals to everyone, regardless of whether you give a hoot about rocks and dirt. From Bryce Canyon you can look out over most of it, if you know what you’re looking at. But the lower layers are obscured from view by the Earth’s curvature–and the depth of the Grand Canyon far to the south, which holds the lowermost layers.
The raising of these immense layers of the Earth’s crust has exposed them to the elements, to varying degrees. Weathering. Erosion. And erosion–like rust–never sleeps!
Erosion carves the exposed layers into fantastic shapes and reveals their colors. Thus beauty is created by things falling apart. Kind of the opposite of what one might think. That’s geology for you.
At Bryce you’re enjoying the Pink Cliffs. A layer of limestone that erosion carves into walls, fins, and finally hoodoos (irregularly edged spires).
And in winter, the snow really sets them off. Especially under a trademark Utah high country blue sky.
Photo location: Bryce Canyon National Park, southern Utah.
© Copyright 2017 Stephen J. Krieg