Zion National Park is a geologic wonderland as it is at the border of the Colorado Plateau. Since it is on the border of this large plateau, Zion is geologically tied to the other national parks in the region. As the land lowers from the topic of the plateau, there are magnificent multi-colored layers of rock called the Grand Staircase which the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument showcases. The top layers of the staircase are found in the Bryce Canyon National Park, and it ends with Grand Canyon National Park. Zion National Park is comprised of the layers of the staircase that are between Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon national parks – with the former on top and the later on the bottom.
There are many geologic forces at work in Zion National Park. Sedimentation has played a key role in the area. Over 240 million years ago, this region was an area of mud, sand, and gravel, but over time wind deposited this material in layers and it hardened. As water full of minerals seeped through these layers, it helped cement and color these various layers through lithification. Minerals such as iron oxide, calcium carbonate, and silica were crucial in this process. For instance, iron oxide is responsible for creating the red hues of the area.
Uplift is one of the other major forces at work here. Several of the mountains in the Colorado Plateau and Rocky Mountain region were caused by the pressure from deep within the earth. These forces manifest themselves on the surface as mountains jut up to higher elevations.
Other than lithification, Zion National Park probably most showcases the work of erosion. One of the predominate examples is how the Colorado River eroded Zion Canyon out of the Colorado Plateau. The river’s erosive power has caused the canyon to take a “V” shape while leaving several slot canyons strewn throughout the area. Perhaps one of the most impressive features is the appearance of spontaneous waterfalls when it rains. The Colorado River eroded the canyon in its riverbed faster than other streams; thus, several streambeds abruptly end on the canyon wall. As rain is channeled down these beds, waterfalls spout when streambeds drop off. Another neat legacy of erosion is the Checkerboard Mesa on the east end of the park. This sandstone mesa has a checkerboard patterned that water and ice etched into it over the years.
These geologic forces continue to work on this beautiful red canvas here at the border of the Colorado Plateau. Therefore, Zion National Park is not only a place to enjoy what geologic forces have accomplished, it is also a place to watch these geologic forces continue to work.
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