Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Four Corners Furtherance: The geology of Zion National Park

Zion National Park is part of the Colorado Plateau, which began to rise from the rest of the continent around 13 million years ago. The rocks are far older, dating back to the Paleozoic era, which explains the different colors of the layers. Orange tends to dominate in Zion, for the most part that hue comes from iron-oxide.

The plateau is not named for the state, but rather the Colorado River, which does not flow through Zion, although its Virgin River is a tributary to the great river of the southwest.

On the upper left is Checkerboard Mesa, which is comprised of Navajo Sandstone.

Click on any image to make it larger. If you do so with that photo, you will learn how the mesa got its name.

On the upper right are the Court of the Patriarchs mountains, named by Methodist minster Vining Fisher in 1916 for the towering figures of the Old Testament. From the left is Abraham Peak, Isaac Peak, and on the far right is a bit of Jacob Peak, a white mountain. In front of Jacob is Mount Moroni, named for the angel who directed Church of Latter-day Saints prophet Joseph Smith to the golden plates on which the Book of Mormon was written.

Surprisingly, brief thunderstorms are common during the summer in Zion, a spit of rain fell just before I took the Court of the Patriarchs photograph.

Life is resilient and finds a way, as the bottom right photograph reminds us.

Next: The wildlife of Zion.

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