Thursday, June 26, 2014

Another World, Part 2 - Zion National Park

Virgin River, looking south toward the Watchman formation

                                                                             We're marching to Zion,
                                                              Beautiful, beautiful Zion . . .

                                                                                    -- Christian hymn (Watts/Lowry)

Zion, Utah's first national park, was created as a national monument in 1909 and elevated to national park status in 1919.  Ironically, though not called a canyon, Zion's principal features are canyons and cliffs cut by rivers and streams.  

The biggest, and most visited, canyon was created by the Virgin River on the west side of the park.  The river carries about 3 million tons of rock and sediment out of the park every year.

The river cuts through deep formations of sandstone that were deposited over a period of about 10 million years around 175 million years ago, when the area was a huge desert.  Consequently, the walls of the Virgin River canyon rise steeply up to 2,000 feet above the canyon floor.

To give you a sense of the scale, look closely at the photo below and see if you can spot the two rock climbers: 

In the east side of the park, the predominant feature is gigantic mountains of Navajo sandstone.  You can easily see these as frozen versions of enormous desert sand dunes.

Some of the mountains have a feature called cross-bedding, where layers were deposited in different directions due to changes in the prevailing wind direction over the millennia.  

Checkerboard Mesa

We will see additional examples of cross-bedding in our visit to White Pocket, the subject of a future post in this series, "Another World."

Although the size of the sandstone mountains and cliffs in Zion is staggering, you can also find beauty in small things:  tenacious and sometimes delicate plants growing right out of the rock . . .

Pockets and pools of water . . .

Textures, patterns, and colors . . .


Inevitably, however, Zion reminds us of how very small we are in the great scheme of things:

If you would like to see these images and more in a larger format, visit my photography website -- Todos Juntos Photography -- by clicking here.


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