Monday, July 1, 2013

The Abandoned Lands: A Compendium of Geology Explorations on the Colorado Plateau

During the summer of 2012, I explored the margins of the Colorado Plateau with a group of geology and anthropology students. I was struck by the way that the land tended to defeat the best efforts of those who wanted to colonize and "tame" the landscape. From this grew a blog series that I titled "The Abandoned Lands". As I prepared to explore these lands again from a different perspective, I realized I had never put together a compendium of the posts that I wrote last year. So with your patience, I now do so. Look for them "beneath the fold"...

The Abandoned Lands: A Journey Through the Colorado Plateau
The introductory post that explained the name and rationale...

We set out on the road, and see a horrific accident. We start right away seeing the contrast between a bounteous land, and one that challenges life.

A Real Hole in the Wall
We discover evidence of an ancient catastrophe, the eruption of the Peach Springs Tuff, at Hole in the Wall in the Mojave National Preserve.

The Grandest Canyon
We drive (drive!) to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and have a look at the river that is responsible for much of the scenery found on the Colorado Plateau, as well as seeing the Great Unconformity.

The Seven Stages of Grand Canyon Awareness
An understanding of the Grand Canyon can be achieved on many levels. Here is a seven-part hierarchy of awareness.

And not a single sentient being ever laid eyes on the mountains
An exploration of the Proterozoic history of the Grand Canyon as revealed in Peach Springs Canyon, a story so ancient that no beings of any sort witnessed it. Oh, and a herd of bighorn sheep!

Where the Rivers Changed Direction
Peach Springs Canyon reveals a startling fact: there was a "Grand Canyon" here in the age of dinosaurs, and the river flowed in the opposite direction that it does today.

Three Grand Canyons in One
A discussion of the Grand Canyon Supergroup of the late Proterozoic. The rocks are three times as thick as the Paleozoic rocks that make up the walls of Grand Canyon.

The Little Colorado River is little, but the canyon it's in isn't
Even the tributaries to the Colorado River are spectacular. A vertical walled canyon on the Navajo Reservation...

Wupatki and Sunset Crater
We begin our exploration of the human habitation of the Colorado Plateau at Wupatki National Monument. An Ancestral Puebloan village was destroyed by the eruption of Sunset Crater a thousand years ago.

The River Red, a little red goes a long way
The Paria River and the Colorado: Red and green come together.

Walnut Canyon: Would you have been one of them?
A national and cultural heritage was pillaged and vandalized long before Walnut Canyon came under federal protection.

Not so much abandoned as obliterated
A look at Meteor Crater, a catastrophe out of nowhere.

There is at least one forest in the Southwest that won't burn this year
A look at the Triassic Chinle Formation and the petrified forest it reveals

Twitter and Facebook, circa 1605: Exploring El Morro National Monument
The only watering hole for many miles: El Morro was a gathering place, with messages spanning more than a thousand years scratched onto the rocks.

There are some who won't give up
Acoma Pueblo has been continually occupied for nearly a thousand years. This land doesn't defeat everyone.

I've looked at erosion from both sides now
Taking a look at a slot canyon from above and from below. Where is it?

Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks: Erosion in Action
Exploring the strange hoodoos of Kasha Katuwe National Monument

The Rise and Fall of Empires...
A look at Pecos National Monument, a once powerful fortress brought to ruin, and the first Civil War battlefield I've ever visited.
Surviving in the Great Rift
The Rio Grande Rift is a gigantic gash that threatened to split the American continent in half. But then it stopped. Today it forms an eastern boundary to the Colorado Plateau. We look at the sometimes tragic history of Taos Pueblo.

Migrations, Calderas, and the middle of the story at Bandelier
Bandelier National Monument is one of the strangest archaeological sites on or near the Colorado Plateau. The dwellings were built right into the cliffs of rhyolite tuff.

Calderas and Inside-Out Caverns
We take a look at the Jemez Caldera, the site of a huge eruption not so long ago. And a cavern forming in broad daylight!

The Cosmos and Mystery at Chaco
We pay a visit to a former center of the Universe for the Ancestral Puebloans, on the Summer Solstice. Chaco Canyon is a mystical kind of place...

The Rise and Fall of Empires, Part 2
An exploration of the incredible city-states of Chaco Canyon, and how they came to be abandoned.

The Rise and Fall of Empires, Part 3
More discussion of the civilization of Chaco that came to an end.

700 Years in the Fertile Crescent
We start our exploration of Mesa Verde National Park, one of the greatest architectural wonders of the world. Why did the Ancestral Puebloans choose (and abandon) this place?

In death and the end of all things, there is beauty?
The beautiful cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde were occupied for only a few decades. The Ancestral Puebloans lived on the mesa tops for more than six hundred years before they retreated to the alcoves.

What will be the evidence be of your passage?
Musings at the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores, Colorado. A great display of artifacts, unfortunately retrieved before being inundated by a reservoir.

The fusion of geology and architecture, part 1
We look at some of the most unique dwellings to be found anywhere at Hovenweep National Monument.

The fusion of geology and architecture, part 2
The dwellings of Mule Canyon in Utah. A hiking adventure...

A bit of the Wild West remains at Bodie
We briefly abandon our Colorado Plateau trip for a look at Bodie, a well-preserved gold mining town in eastern California.

The Joys and Perils of Serendipity on the Lisbon Valley Anticline
The story of Charlie Steen and the uranium boom on the Colorado Plateau.

One extraordinary day in the canyonlands, part 1
A beautiful sunrise on the fins and spans at Arches National Park on a long and interesting day in the Canyonlands Section of the Colorado Plateau
One extraordinary day in the canyonlands, part 2
A hike out to the world's largest arch, and a look at another smaller, but beautiful arch in Arches National Park.

One extraordinary day in the canyonlands, part 3
The Windows Section of Arches National Park, and the Indiana Jones arch!

One extraordinary day in the canyonlands, part 4
We move on to Canyonlands National Park for a look at an extraordinary landscape inhabited by no one anymore. No native Americans, no miners, no ranchers, they all left it behind.

A day in the canyonlands, a fiery end
One of the more beautiful sunsets I've ever seen, from the Sand Dune Arch Trail in Devils Garden at Arches National Park.

We had to save a village in order to destroy it
The Fremont were an enigmatic people who occupied the regions north of Anasazi territory. One of their largest villages lay in the path of a new interstate freeway, and thus it had to be destroyed. Pieces were preserved at Fremont State Park.

A Hell of a Place to Lose a Cow
Bryce Canyon is one of our premier national parks, and for a good reason. A great walk through Wall Street Canyon.

Wrapping up a tour of the Colorado Plateau
Trials and tribulations on our final few days in the Abandoned Lands...a tour Zion National Park, a wonderful cavern at Great Basin National Park, and fires burning across the region.

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