Put another way, a ribbon of stone the length of eight buses, and barely thicker than a man is tall. The symbol of the park however, as seen on Utah license plates, is Delicate Arch. In the s, there were discussions about giving the rock a chemical coating to slow the processes of erosion that might rob future generations of this magical sight.
In truth though, arches such as these have crumbled for millennia before there were humans around to mourn their passing. All we can do is to enjoy them at their moment of glory. The exposed cliffs and slopes, devoid of plant life, clearly show the layers of rock and soil that have made this region such a geological playground.
What is special about the Colorado Plateau is that it stayed remarkably stable while rocks all around it were being buckled and tilted during a continental uplift some 60 million years ago. Rock layers here remained nicely horizontal, and the result has been the table-topped mesas that are some of the most distinctive features of the American Southwest.
One day, some of these horses were forgotten by their herders, with consequences sadly apparent from the name. The underside of Mesa Arch basks in a morning glow.
The northern and most easily accessible part of the park, between the two rivers, is called the Island in the Sky — a mesa around 12 miles long, branching off in dozens of spindly fingers. At one fingertip is Upheaval Dome, where jagged rocks at the centre of a circular void may be evidence of a meteorite strike 60 million years ago. On one of the eastern clifftops, Mesa Arch frames a view over valleys and sculpted rocks leading down to the recesses of the Colorado River. The Grand View Point overlook at the end of the Island in the Sky is only nine miles as the eagle flies from the Needles in the southern section of the park, but miles and three hours by car.
Instead of imposing mesas, the scenery here is more troglodytic, with crowds of hoodoos — columns of worn-down rock capped with more sturdy boulders that protect them. The life-size figures in the Great Gallery at Horseshoe Canyon may be up to years old. The Needles are a 1.
Southwestern Utah State Parks | Greater Zion
The western Maze section is not recommended except to very experienced 4x4 drivers, while Horseshoe Canyon can be visited with rangers on weekend hikes in spring and autumn. In the tales of the Paiute people of Utah, long ago there lived the To-whenan- ung-wa, or Legend People, who were animals of all kinds with the power to take on human form. They were arrogant and misused the land, so in punishment, the coyote god, known as a trickster by Native Americans, turned them all to stone.
They still stand in their thousands at Bryce Canyon National Park, as the totem-pole-like rock formations known as hoodoos. The park is not so much a canyon as the eastern edge of a great plateau, nibbled into a series of amphitheatres at a rate of about one metre every hundred years, through layers of limestone, siltstone and mudstone that give the hoodoos their segmented appearance.
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