Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Vagabonding Across the 39th Parallel: A Hoodoo Homily postscript - Red Canyon

Our vagabonding adventure continued...
People who are in a hurry to get to Bryce Canyon National Park from the west sometimes miss a little gem of a geological site on their way in: Red Canyon. The canyon (which unlike Bryce Canyon is actually a canyon) is carved through the same formation that makes up the spires and hoodoos of Bryce, the early Cenozoic Claron. We had left Bryce and were on our way to Zion National Park, but as we passed Red Canyon, we couldn't resist stopping and taking a look.
Although Red Canyon is not a specific park, it is on national forest land, and the NFS has constructed a decent visitor center, and developed a small network of trails in the area. The short nature trail we hiked was nice and level, in contrast to the steep trails below the rim at Bryce Canyon. It gave us some up close access to several vivid orange hoodoos. Because there are fewer of the them, the spires that are there stand out as individuals. Your imagination can have some fun here.
We wandered along the trail. Over the last few days the weather had stabilized. In Colorado we had been hit with some pretty severe thunderstorm activity, but now high pressure had settled in, and the temperatures soared. Even though we were at more than 7,000 feet, it was in the high 90's, and the sunlight reflecting off the rock just made it feel hotter. By the time we reached the visitor center again, we were happy the place was air conditioned.
The heat was a bit of some concern, because Zion Canyon was several thousand feet lower and would presumably be an oven. We felt no need to rush through things when we had such a pleasant place to explore.
As we passed the mouth of Red Canyon we had a startling view of the Sevier fault zone, which raised the Paunsaugunt Plateau (that includes Bryce Canyon) relative to the Sevier River, which drains north towards the Basin and Range and the Sevier Desert. This particular part of Utah is not yet part of the Colorado River drainage, but in a short period of time (geologically) it will be captured by headward erosion, and a new Bryce Canyon will develop.
We headed south. Zion National Park was next on our vagabonding itinerary...

This link provides a nice roadguide to the geology of Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon. It refers to the Wasatch formation instead of the Claron. The two names refer to the same rock layer, but I believe Claron is the currently designated name for the formation.


Gaelyn said...

Thanks for this. Haven't stopped at Red Canyon, yet. Seems always in a hurry to get to Bryce, or back. Maybe a spring or fall trip.

Sujana said...

Wow! Hope to see the Red Canyon one day.