Saturday, June 1, 2013

Seeing Things Upside Down in the Red Rocks: What To Do When You Get Bored With Las Vegas

Bored in Las Vegas? Really? Okay, the town is such an aberration in the desert that one can hardly get bored, but my attention was really elsewhere as we tried to get ready to meet the people traveling with us through the western Colorado Plateau. It took only three hours to get our rental vehicles, and it took some wrangling to get the last person to the hotel from the airport, but by 4:30 we had everyone, and most of them were ready and willing to check out some geological sights west of town. We headed to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

I made an appropriate first impression by missing the turnoff to the park, and taking the crew on an impromptu crossing of the Spring Mountains. But good ole Captain Eagle-Eye Wrong-Way eventually got us back to the road we wanted, and we headed towards one of the more stunning sights in the Basin and Range Province.
The Keystone Thrust was a Cretaceous structure that developed during the Sevier Orogeny, involving a section of the Earth's crust being compressed and pushed over the adjoining rocks. Rocks brought up from the depths are often older, so at Red Rock Canyon NCA, 500+ million year old Cambrian Bonanza King Limestone got pushed up and over the younger Jurassic sediments called the Aztec Sandstone. The site pretty much defines the term "contrast". Dark limestone forms the high Wilson Cliffs, while bright colored sandstone livens up the Calico Hills
There was also a lot of green. For some reason lots of flowers were evident (despite the desert environment, we were at well over 4,000 feet in elevation). The plants had attracted all manner of bugs and beautiful hummingbirds (top picture).
From the high point on the park loop, we were treated to an awesome view of the imposing cliffs of the Spring Mountains and the Keystone Thrust.
 The rocks maybe weren't really upside down so much as out of order. But the lizard climbing on the big boulder of sandstone was definitely upside down. I wish I could climb rocks that way!

I also wish for an eventful trip this week (in a good way) as we make our way tomorrow to Peach Springs and a drive to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. More later!
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