Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Three Stages of Hoodooism....

Some folks make a big miscalculation if they visit Bryce Canyon National Park. They seem to believe that if you've seen one hoodoo, you've seen them all. They may be in a hurry, and thus hit the one famous overlook, like Sunset View, or Inspiration Point, and head out to Ruby's for lunch, and then on to Zion. They miss out. There is a twenty mile long park road that has a dozen or more stops, and once you know what to expect, you can enjoy the sometimes subtle and sometimes obvious differences.
I mean, this is hardly memorable at all, right?

Here's what I am getting at...there are unique sections of the park that reveal differences in the degree of erosion that has eaten away at the edge of the plateau. The Silent City, in the most visited and most photographed part of the park, is a vast expanse of countless hoodoos, and there is no place quite like it in the world. But the formation of which it is made, the Claron Formation, is present over thousands of square miles in southern Utah. Why aren't there dozens of valleys out there just like this one?

It has to do with the degree to which erosion has reached the underlying Cretaceous layers. In the northern stretch of the park, around Fairyland View, headward erosion of the Paria River has only begun to attack the Claron, and essentially only the "tops" of the future hoodoos are sticking out.
Fairyland is colorful and beautiful, but it is mostly lacking in the tall hoodoos that characterize the Silent City in the central part of the park. The incision caused by the occasional flash floods just hasn't cut very far into the freshwater limestones of the Claron Formation. As time goes on, the gullies will become deeper and deeper, and the hoodoos will reach their zenith in height and relief.
In the diagram above, note how the deepest slot canyons have almost reached the underlying Cretaceous sediments. The sediments include weakly consolidated sandstone and siltstone that is easily eroded. Once the contact has been reached, the hoodoos will rapidly disappear. Until then, the scenery is spectacular! The Sunrise, Sunset, Bryce, and Inspiration viewpoints in the central part of Bryce Canyon National Park are truly incredible places to learn about hoodoos. The hikes into the depths of the slot canyons, especially Wall Street, are memorable.
The southernmost part of the park, at Yovimpa and Rainbow Points, represents the last stage in the disappearance of the hoodoos. The Claron Formation only makes up part of the cliff face, and only a few hoodoos are evident.
Most of the hoodoos may be gone from the valleys below, but Rainbow and Yovimpa Points are at the highest point in the park, and the view from each point covers thousands of square miles of plateau country, including the heart of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and far off in the distance, the Kaibab Plateau and the Grand Canyon. On this recent trip, we could make out the snowy peaks of the Wasatch Front to the north, many miles away.

Bryce Canyon deserves a leisurely exploration. It's not a place to rush through...after all, if you disrespect the petrified beings of the Silent City, you might suffer a "hoodoo curse"!

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