Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Heading Out to the Back of Beyond on the Colorado Plateau!

Geotripper may go quiet for a week or two, as I will be on the road with twenty of my best students out on the Colorado Plateau, the incredible region surrounding the Four Corners. I've been dreaming of this trip for a year now, as I had to start making group camping reservations last July! It's getting crowded in some of the places like Grand Canyon and Zion, but I've learned over the years that there are some pretty quiet places out there as well. When I started blogging a decade ago, one of my first ideas was a blog series about the places we visit on our field studies journey. I am reposting the introduction both for my students, but for anyone out there who might be traveling in the region and might want to know a little more about the lands they are passing through.



From July 1, 2008:

Please forgive me for filling the feeds with such a long post, but I wanted to pull together an annotated list of the blog posts of my just completed journey through the geological history of the Colorado Plateau. It turned into a massive project that lasted more than a year, and included seventy different postings and more than a hundred photos. Don't feel compelled to try reading it, but I hope you enjoy it if you do. If it lacks precise continuity and style, remember that I had no idea how it would end when I started it and I had no editor! I've been taking students on the plateau for twenty years, and it has proven to be one of the best places on the planet to learn earth history.

Time Beyond Imagining, the first post back in June of 2008 introducing the concept that would guide the entire series. I had no idea what I was getting into!

Time Beyond Imagining - An Intro to the Colorado Plateau, a first introduction to the sweep of the landscape that I would be covering through the series.

Time Beyond Imagining - The Oldest Rocks on the Colorado Plateau: The oldest rocks are exposed at only a few places, including deep in the Grand Canyon

Time Beyond Imagining - A Brief History of the Colorado Plateau, Part 2: A discussion of the 12,000 feet of sediments hidden deep in the depth of the Grand Canyon dated at around 1 billion years

Time Beyond Imagining - A Brief History of the Colorado Plateau, Part 3: LIFE!: The first appearance of complex life during the Cambrian Period

Time Beyond Imagining - A Brief History of the Colorado Plateau, Part 4: Something is Missing! Journeying up the walls of Grand Canyon through the Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian periods

Time Beyond Imagining - A Brief History of the Colorado Plateau, Part 5: Seeing Red Looking at the Mississippian Redwall Limestone in Grand Canyon

Time Beyond Imagining - A Brief History of the Colorado Plateau, Part 6: Seeing Red (Really!) We rise up through the walls of the Grand Canyon to the Permian rocks of the Supai Group and Hermit Shale

Time Beyond Imagining - A Brief History of the Colorado Plateau, Part 7: Mountains Rise: Permian rocks are exposed throughout the plateau country. We leave the Grand Canyon and explore some of these other places

Time Beyond Imagining - A Brief History of the Colorado Plateau: Old Salt I was beginning to realize that the project would be longer than I thought. We explore the formation and effects of salt precipitation in Late Paleozoic time

Time Beyond Imagining - A Brief History of the Colorado Plateau: Sand! A return to the Grand Canyon and the prominent Coconino Sandstone near the rim

Time Beyond Imagining - A Brief History of the Colorado Plateau: A Final Transgression Looking at the top two layers in the Grand Canyon and related rocks on other parts of the plateau.

Time Beyond Imagining - A Brief History of the Colorado Plateau: On to the Grand Staircase An introduction to the Mesozoic history of the plateau country, which lies outside the Grand Canyon. We start exploring the other wonderful parks out there

The Grand Staircase and the Geologic Time Scale A diagram of the Grand Staircase, the younger rocks of the Colorado Plateau

Time Beyond Imagining - A Brief History of the Colorado Plateau: Into the Triassic An introduction to the widespread Triassic rocks of the Plateau. It would prove to take a number of posts!

Mid-week Mystery Sample: What is it? A short departure to discuss the identity of a Triassic fossil from the plateau. A fairly long discussion followed!


Time Beyond Imagining - A Brief History of the Colorado Plateau: Ash and Wood A study of the paleontology of one of our unusual parks: Petrified Forest in Arizona

Time Beyond Imagining - A Brief History of the Colorado Plateau: This Yellow is NOT Mellow The Chinle also contains mineable uranium deposits; I wade into the controversy

Leetso, the Yellow Monster A continuation of the heritage of uranium on the plateau

Time Beyond Imagining - A Brief History of the Colorado Plateau: The Real Jurassic Parks The Jurassic rocks of the plateau are responsible for much of the spectacular scenery in the region. This was the introduction

The Colorado Plateau Story: the real Jurassic Parks Follows the story of the Kayenta and Wingate formations, and three unique and little known parks: Capitol Reef National Park, and Colorado and Vermillion Cliffs National Monuments.

The Real Jurassic Parks: Navajo! The Navajo Sandstone forms some of the best photography opportunities: this was a discussion of Antelope Canyon, a beautiful slot canyon

Antelope Canyon, A Real Jurassic Park An excuse to show more pictures of Antelope Canyon!

Zion: A Real Jurassic Park First part of look at one of our "crown jewel" national parks

Zion: A Real Jurassic Park, Part 2 A hike to Angels Landing in Zion National Park

The Real Jurassic Parks: Capitol Reef (Oh, and Sheep Blogging) A return to Capitol Reef and an excuse to show off one of my favorite bighorn sheep pictures

The Real Jurassic Parks: The San Rafael Group An introduction to another group of Jurassic formations, including the all-important Entrada Sandstone. A busy semester had begun and posts were becoming sparser at times. I was realizing the project was going to take some time, and I stopped using the word "brief"!

The Real Jurassic Parks: Goblin Valley and the Entrada Sandstone One of Utah's unique and isolated state parks

The Real Jurassic Parks: Kodachrome Basin (and a great resource!) Another fantastic Utah State Park and a link to an e-book on the geology of Utah's parks and monuments

The Real Jurassic Parks: Arches National Park An intro to Arches National Park, one of my personal favorites

The Real Jurassic Parks: Arches National Park, continued. And an Eminent Threat. After several weeks I got back to work with a continued exploration of Arches, and discussed new threats to parks in the region

The Real Jurassic Parks: Where are the Dinosaurs? A look at wonderful Dinosaur National Monument and a rotten political situation there

The REAL Jurassic Parks were really Cretaceous I thought the Jurassic would provide the most posts in the series, and therefore had no idea how long I would spend in the Cretaceous. This was the introduction

The Cretaceous Parks of the Colorado Plateau: the Cedar Mountain Formation The only dinosaur dig I ever took part in was in an early Cretaceous formation in Montana, but it was related to the Colorado Plateau. This post turned into seven part story on our adventure

The Cretaceous Parks of the Colorado Plateau: the Story of a DinoDig Much of the story was trying to get there in the first place: what is geokarma?

The Cretaceous Parks of the Colorado Plateau: Every Cloud has a Golden Lining We drive through Yellowstone and arrive at the dig site

The Cretaceous Parks of the Colorado Plateau: the story of a Dino-Dig What we were looking for and why it was important. What is a deinonychus?



The Cretaceous Parks of the Colorado Plateau: the Final Discovery We found a dinosaur that invariably is the last entry in a dinosaur dictionary...

The Cretaceous Parks of the Colorado Plateau: The View is Nice but Access is a Problem... Back on the plateau, we are introduced to the remaining Cretaceous rocks and two archaeological parks, Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients National Monuments

The Cretaceous Parks of the Colorado Plateau: Walled Cities and Tragedy More on the Canyons of the Ancients and a walled medieval-aged city...in southern Colorado!


The Cretaceous Parks of the Colorado Plateau: The Mancos Sea An interesting formation that some geologists curse at...

The Cretaceous Parks of the Colorado Plateau: The Green Table An exploration of the famous cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park

The Cretaceous Parks of the Colorado Plateau: the Black Mesa story I wade into the coal mining controversy and get more comments than any other entry in the series

The Cretaceous Parks of the Colorado Plateau: A City in the Wilderness Life had become busy and it was a month before I returned to the plateau with a discussion of Chaco Culture National Historical Park

And The Old World Passed Away... The Geologic History of the Colorado Plateau And another month passed! I tried to find the words to describe the profound events at the end of the Cretaceous Period

Time Beyond Imagining - A not-so-brief History of the Colorado Plateau Another long gap, but I was finally talking about the last 65 million years of Colorado Plateau history with an intro to the crustal deformation that was beginning to effect the region

Time Beyond Imagining - Land of Giant Lakes A discussion of the origin of the rocks at Bryce Canyon and Cedar Breaks National Monument. I thought I was close to the end, but I was still wrong, after a full year!

Fire Down Below - a Geological History of the Colorado Plateau Another month of blogging on other things and I returned to the Cenozoic history of the region with a discussion of the volcanic activity that started to emerge on the plateau, including Shiprock

Fire Down Below II - a Geological History of the Colorado Plateau The laccolithic mountains of the plateau country

Fire Down Below III - a Geological History of the Colorado Plateau I find I have almost no pictures of Navajo Mountain despite having driven around it dozens of times...

Time Beyond Imagining: A Scrambled Landscape Cenozoic events led to a truly scrambled landscape with a mystery-of-the-day

Time Beyond Imagining: A Scrambled Landscape in Unaweep Canyon More mysterious canyons at Unaweep and Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Time Beyond Imagining: A Scrambled Landscape in Colorado An exploration of Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a canyon that shouldn't be there

Time Beyond Imagining - A Really Scrambled Landscape on the Colorado Plateau The opening discussion of one of the great plateau mysteries: why is there a Grand Canyon?


Time Almost Not Beyond Imagining: Recent Volcanism on the Colorado Plateau I thought I was almost finished, but found that much happened in the final few million years of the story. This is the story of the San Francisco Peaks Volcanic Field

Time Almost Not Beyond Imagining: Recent Volcanism on the Colorado Plateau Part 2 A look at the volcanoes in the western Grand Canyon and how they formed massive lakes in the Grand Canyon, some 200 miles long!

Time Almost Not Beyond Imagining: Recent Volcanism on the Colorado Plateau Pt. 3 The story of a stupendous rhyolite eruption at the Jemez Caldera in New Mexico

Time Almost Beyond Imagining: Who Do the Magic that Hoodoo? My favorite title for a discussion of a unique park near the Jemez Caldera, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Time Almost Not Beyond Imagining: Recent Volcanism on the Colorado Plateau and Deep Time Although I had reached the last million years of a two billion year history, I felt a need to try and describe the immensity of geologic time, using the ruins of Bandelier National Park and the Jemez Caldera

Time Beyond Imagining - Where did the Ancient Enemy Go? The "disappearance" of the Ancestral Pueblo people is explored at Bandelier National Monument

Time Beyond Imagining: Why Can't We Touch the Venus de Milo? Once again, I thought I was done, but found a series of fascinating (to me) stories about research in the limestone caverns on the plateau. I began with a rant about preserving these wonderful caves that took us to Rome and Paris, of all places

Holy Crap, Batman! The Bat Cave is Full of it! Bat Cave in western Grand Canyon, and bat-sh*t. Lots of it, sort of

Holy Smokes, Batman, that crap is on fire! I was saving my best titles to the last, I guess. A horrific crime against science at Rampart Cave in the Grand Canyon


Time Beyond Imagining - A Final Struggle for Life on the Colorado Plateau I imagine the death of the very last mammoth on the Colorado Plateau

Time Beyond Imagining: The End of the Story, or the Beginning? In the final post of the series, I discuss the arrival of humans on the plateau, and how humans change the land they occupy. I also tip my hat to Ken Burns and his series on "The National Parks: America's Greatest Idea". The parks are the laboratories in which I and my students study the history of the earth.

So there you go: 71 posts that tell a story encompassing 2 billion years as it is exposed on a very special part of the earth's surface: the Colorado Plateau, covering parts of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. Congratulations if you ever made it through the whole thing. I never realized I was writing the equivalent of an entire book, but it was a story I truly enjoyed telling, and I also deeply appreciated the feedback that many of you provided.