Kodachrome Basin, ... is a spectacle of towering sandstone chimneys, changing in color and shadow with the day's mood - from red-tinged spires against a blue sky, to soft evening light settling over the desert. This color and contrast prompted the National Geographic Society in 1949, with consent from Kodak Film Corp., to name the park Kodachrome.
Nearly 70 monolithic spires, ranging from six to 170 feet in height, jut up from the valley floor or protrude from the sandstone. These natural towers stand like stone sentries overlooking the park and create a backdrop that is sure to delight the senses and spark the imagination. The redrock and semi-desert climate make this state park attractive to visitors all year. Kodachrome Basin can be reached by following Scenic Byway 12, an All American Road and one of the most spectacular drives in the West, to Cannonville, then south nine miles on a paved road.
Geology ... The story of Kodachrome Basin began more than 180 million years ago. It is the story of the Earth itself, and of the constant changes that occur due to the forces of nature. Like the chapters in a book, each rock layer reveals a chapter in Kodachrome Basin's history, telling of times when this desert land was covered by vast inland seas and raging rivers. It reveals times of great violence and upheaval and times of relative peace, and how the relentless power of wind and water shaped the landscape around us.
Geologic History ... Kodachrome Basin State Park is located on the Colorado Plateau, an uplifted region that covers much of the four corners area of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. Within the park, the exposed formations range from the middle Jurassic Period (180 million years ago) to the Cretaceous Period (95 million years ago).
Carmel Formation: Deposits from an inland sea that existed 180 million years ago formed this layer. This is the oldest exposed formation in the park. The Carmel Formation is characterized by solid layers of the mineral gypsum, which forms white striations in the red colored cliffs in the lower elevations of the park.
Entrada Formation: Lying just above the Carmel Formation is the red colored Entrada. The Entrada was formed from deposits that were laid down during the mid-to-late Jurassic Period, approximately 180 to 140 milllion years ago. It is primarily composed of fine grained sandstone along with gypsum, shale, quartz and clay. This formation is one of the most scenic in the park due to its color. It also forms the ubiquitous "slickrock" of southern Utah. Most of the sedimentary pipes found within the park occur in this formation.
Henrieville Sandstone: Deposited near the end of the Jurassic Period, the Henrieville Sandstone is white to tan in appearance. Deposits of Henrieville Sandstone are almost unnoticable in the main part of the park. However, Grosvenor Arch, located approximately 11 miles south of the park, was formed within this sandstone.
Dakota and Tropic Shale Formations: These are the uppermost formations visible in the park. They were deposited approximately 95 million years ago when a vast seaway covered much of the interior of North America, including most of Utah.
Sedimentary Pipes ... The most distinctive features in the park are the large columns of sedimentary rock that rise from the basin floor. These are known as sedimentary pipes. Approximately 67 sedimentary pipes have been identified in Kodachrome Basin and in the area adjacent to the park. Geologists are unsure of the exact origin of the pipes, but several theories have been proposed that might explain their formation.
Evidence recorded in the rock layers within the park indicate this area was seismically active throughout most of its geologic history. Earthquakes may have provided the force necessary to cause coarse, water-saturated sediments to scour pathways through the overlying rock layers. These pathways became filled with the coarse sediment and eventually re-cemented and became harder than the surrounding rock. Over time, erosion has removed the softer layers, revealing the pipes.
A second theory explains the pipes as the remnants of ancient springs. The springs became choked with sediments, which eventually cemented together and became more erosion-resistant than the surrounding rock. The softer rock layers were eventually worn away by erosion, exposing the sedimentary pipes.
Recently, a new theory proposes that the pipes were formed from water-saturated pockets buried under layers of other sediments over a period of several million years. Pressure from the overlying sediments forced the wet slurry upwards. The rising slurry scoured pathways through the overlying rock, eventually cementing into hard rock. Erosion stripped away the softer rock layers revealing the landscape you see today. No matter how they were formed, the pipes provide a landscape that is truly unique to Kodachrome Basin.
Plants ... At an elevation of 5,800 feet, the lands of Kodachrome Basin are classified as semi-desert in the upper Sonoran life zone. Plants must adapt to drought conditions and extreme temperatures. Medium-sized trees include pinion pine and Utah juniper. Common plants are big sage, rabbit brush, single leaf ash, Ephedra (Mormon tea), Fremont holly, and buffalo berry. Flowering plants and grasses also thrive and include bee balm, Indian paintbrush, evening primrose, yellow flax, biscuit root, locoweed, Indian rice grass, corral grass, and needle and thread grass.
Wildlife ... Animals must also adapt to this rather harsh environment. Larger animals include mule deer, and mountain lion or cougar. Coyote, bobcat, and grey fox commonly prey on the black-tailed jack and cottontail rabbits, grey squirrel, and chipmunk. There are also kangaroo rats, mice, Sonoran whip snakes, gopher snakes, Great Basin and midget faded rattlesnakes, and fence and whip lizards. Several species of birds include common raven, golden eagle, pinion jay, scrub jay, rock wren, logger head shrike, titmouse, and chipping sparrow.
Trail DescriptionsGrand Parade Trail: A scenic 1.5-mile (2.4 km) trail that stays on the floor of Kodachrome Basin. Users will be able to observe bird and plant life and explore two box canyons along the trail. Difficulty: Easy. Open to: Hikers, horses, bicycles (Box canyons are open to foot travel only)
Panorama Trail: Winding its way across the western side of the park, this trail allows the user to view several sedimentary pipes and explore some interesting geological features such as "Cool Cave," "Secret Passage," and "The Hat Shop." It can be done as either a 3-mile (4.85 km) or a 6-mile (9.7 km) loop. Difficulty: Easy/Moderate. Open to: Hikers, horses, bicycles.
Angel's Palace Trail: Rising 150 feet (46 m) above the basin floor, this 1.5 mile (2.4 km) trail affords magnificent views of Kodachrome Basin, Bryce Canyon and the surrounding area. It is an excellent trail for photographers. Difficulty: Easy/Moderate. Open to: Hikers
Nature Trail: Informational panels along this 0.5-mile (0.8 km) hard surface trail will give the user an introduction to the plants, animals, and geology found within Kodachrome Basin. Difficulty: Easy. Open to: Hikers, ADA accessible
Shakespeare Arch - Sentinel Trail: A 1.7-mile (2.7 km) loop that gives access to Shakespeare Arch, the only large natural arch within the park. This trail also gives the user magnificent views of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which surrounds the park. The Slickrock Cutoff provides a more challenging alternate route as it winds its way over slickrock behind Shakespeare Arch and Sentinel Spire. Difficulty: Easy to Shakespeare Arch (0.5 miles/0.8km), Moderate to strenuous thereafter. Open to: Hikers
Brochure and Full Map of Kodachrome Basin State park: Kodachrome Basin State Park Text and graphic source: Kodachrome Basin State Park Site Brochure
Video recorded: July 2013 HINT: If video starts/stops often, PAUSE the playback for 15-30 seconds to allow the video buffer memory to fill. To resume playback press PLAY.
The geologic history at Bryce Canyon National Park is rich and complex. Many processes and events have interacted over vast amounts of time to create and continually alter this unique landscape. The story begins long before multicolored hoodoos emerged from this limestone that geologists call the Claron Formation. First, you need to lithify sediments - turn them to rock. Before lithifying sediments, you need to trap them in a basin. To build a basin you need to first build mountains.
Approximately (~)200 million years ago (Ma), Earth's crust was crinkling throughout Nevada, into southern Canada. A strong, dense Pacific sea floor had smashed into North America's weaker continental crust. Much was at stake as the loser would be forced down and melted in Earth's mantle. Although North America remained on top, it was shattered in the contest. Over the 120 million year match, compressional forces bent, folded, broke, and heaved our crust into the sky, giving birth to the once mighty Sevier Mountains. Given enough time, rain and snow become geologic jackhammers splitting mountains apart. From the mountains, streams and rivers carried debris eastward, pulverizing the boulders to mud in transit.
Slightly before the dinosaurs went extinct, ~65 Ma, the land in the Western U.S. changed dramatically. Down but not out, the oceanic plate pushed up our continental crust, stubbornly surfing atop the mantle instead of sinking and melting. This attempt at escaping uplifted land, forming the Rocky Mountains and warping Utah and Arizona. The continued slow uplift shaped a land-locked basin between the Sevier Mountains and the younger Rockies. When the rivers wearing down the Sevier Mountains reached this basin they became braided streams and deposited layers of mud and silts. At the lowest levels, chains of lakes and ponds formed. Water escaped through evaporation, but with no rivers flowing out of the basin, the sediment was trapped. Between 55 - 30 Ma this mammoth mud puddle, known as the Claron Basin, continued to fill with sediments rich in calcium carbonate - dissolved limestone.
The Claron Formation consists of two types of limestone rock. It has a lower pink member and an upper white member. In the early years of the basin, the environment appears to have been more marsh-like, where plant roots helped oxidize iron to give the sediments a red color. Within the pink member, thin and non-continuous gray layers formed, suggesting that individual ponds within this marsh setting became so salty and/or mineralized that only cyanobacteria could survive. These algal-like creatures enriched limestone with magnesium they took from the water to create dolostone - important to hoodoo formation. With the passage of time and an increase in water depth, the basin transitioned into purer lakes where the less iron-rich white limestone was deposited.
Geologists are unsure as to this mud puddle's fate as rocks that might have recorded this story do not exist. Did it evaporate away? Was it eventually drained as the basin was uplifted? What geologists are sure of is that over time these beds of sediment were compressed into rock and uplifted from 3000 ft. to 9000 ft. in elevation. This uplift began ~15 Ma, forming the Colorado Plateau. About 8 Ma, the Bryce Canyon area broke off this uplift as the Paunsaugunt Plateau and has been sinking ever since into the Great Basin.
Technically, Bryce is not a canyon because canyons are primarily carved by flowing water - a stream or a river. Naturally acidic rainwater dissolves limestone, making the rounded edges of hoodoos, but the freezing and thawing of water does most of the sculpting at Bryce Canyon.
Approximately 200 days a year, ice and snow melt during the day and refreeze at night. When water becomes ice, it not only gets harder but expands to 110% its original volume! This exerts enormous pressures on the rocks, forcing them apart from inside the cracks. First attacking the fractures created during uplift and faulting, the rock is chiseled into broken remains. Monsoon rains remove this debris, helping to reveal fins, the first step in hoodoo creation. Most commonly, the second step in hoodoo formation begins when frost-wedging cracks the fins, making holes we call windows. When windows collapse they create the rust painted pinnacles we call hoodoos. We often think of this process as hoodoo creation; when, in reality, it's just another step in water's endless process of destroying the rocks it began creating 55 million years ago. The sequence of events is shown in the three images above.
Location Map of Bryce Canyon National Park:
Text and image source: The Hoodoo - Map, Shuttle & Hiking Guide, Bryce Canyon National Park, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
Grand Canyon - one of Earth's most powerful, inspiring landscapes-overwhelms our senses. Its story tells of geologic processes played out over unimaginable time spans as a unique combination of size, color, and dazzling erosional forms: 277 river miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide, and a mile (1.6 km) deep. Its rugged landscape hosts a fascinating variety of plant and animal communities, from the desert next to the Colorado River deep in the canyon to montane forests atop its North Rim.
Humans have played parts in the story for thousands of years. Broken spear points, enigmatic split-twig figurines, decorated pots, abandoned mines, and historic hotels suggest some who have called the canyon home. Enjoy the views, discover the history, and learn about the plant and animal stories. Today is just the latest page in a history still being written. Grand Canyon National Park is a gift presented to us. Our responsibility as good stewards is to pass on this gift, pristine and preserved, to future generations.
Deep Time, Changing Landscapes ... Grand Canyon reveals a beautiful sequence of rock layers that serve as windows into time. The carving of the canyon is only the most recent chapter, a geologic blink of an eye, in a long story. That long story includes rock nearly two billion (2,000,000,000) years old in the bottom of the canyon, land masses colliding and drifting apart, mountains forming and eroding away, sea levels rising and falling, and relentless forces of moving water. Several factors make Grand Canyon's geology remarkable. Many canyons form as rivers cascade among mountain peaks, but Grand Canyon sits incised into an elevated plateau. The desert landscape exposes the geology to view. It is not hidden under a cloak of vegetation. The strata revealed preserve a lengthy, although incomplete, record of Earth's history. Take time to pause on the rim and enjoy this work of the ages.
Rocks Form - Vishnu Basement Rocks … Tectonic plates move slowly across Earth's surface. Almost two billion years ago a plate carrying an island chain and the plate that became North America collided. Heat and pressure from this process changed those existing rock layers into dark metamorphic rock, the basement of the canyon. Molten rock squeezed into cracks and hardened as light bands of granite.
Grand Canyon Supergroup … The red shale, fossil-bearing limestone, and dark lava of the Grand Canyon Supergroup are revealed in only a few areas. The many strata of the Supergroup accumulated in basins formed as the land mass pulled apart. The expansion caused blocks to tilt, inclining the Supergroup layers. The same process caused Nevada's alter-nating basins and mountain ranges.
Layered Paleozoic Rocks … Nearly horizontal layers of sedimentary rocks comprise the upper two-thirds of the canyon's walls. These rocks formed near sea level and at the edge of the continent. The remains of marine life accumulated on the ocean floor to form limestone. Rivers deposited sediments in swamps and deltas that then became mudstones. Dunes solidified into sandstone.
Uplifting Occurs - The Colorado Plateau Rises … About 70 million years ago the Rocky Mountains began to form, pushed up as the North American Plate overrode the Pacific Plate. As a result, a large section of what is now eastern Utah, northern Arizona, western Colorado, and a corner of New Mexico rose from sea level to elevations of thousands of feet, forming the Colorado Plateau. This uplift occurred with remarkably little tilting or deformation of the sedimentary layers.
Erosion Sculpts - Canyon Carving … By five or six million years ago the Colorado River flowed across the Colorado Plateau on its way from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California. Each rain washed sparsely vegetated desert soils into the river, A steep gradient and heavy sediment loads created a powerful tool for erosion. The river's volume varied seasonally and over time. As the last Ice Age ended 12,000 years ago, the flows may have been 10 times today's volume.
As the river cuts down, the canyon deepens. Tributaries erode into the canyon's sides, increasing its width. Erosion carves faster into the softer rock layers, undermining harder layers above. With no foundation these layers collapse, forming the cliffs and slopes profile of the canyon. Erosion wears away the ridges separating adjacent side canyons, leaving buttes and pinnacles.
Map of Grand Canyon National Park:
Text and graphics source: Grand Canyon National Park brochure, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior