East Of Zion By Philip Hyde
Originally published by Nature Magazine, March 1957
(Nature Magazine was published by the American Nature Association and taken over by Natural History Magazine in 1960.)
Mission of Nature Magazine: “To stimulate public interest in every phase of nature and the outdoors, and devoted to the practical conservation of the great natural resources of America.”
From Wikipedia: American Nature Association, headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, was the publisher of Nature Magazine from 1923 to 1959; and a discount reseller of natural science books for its members. It was founded by Arthur Newton Pack and his father, Charles. Nature Magazine was an “illustrated monthly with popular articles about nature” and later, the “interpreter of the great outdoors.” A May 1924 review of the organization and its magazine, written by Carroll Lane Fenton and published in American Midland Naturalist called the magazine “excellent” with “abundant pictures, admirably printed”; and said it was a “highly worth while publication” that deserves a wide circulation among town and school libraries.” Natural History magazine absorbed Nature Magazine in January 1960.
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East Of Zion By Philip Hyde
A Glimpse of the Geology of Zion National Park
(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)
To a casual tourist, the eastern portion of Zion National Park in Utah may be just an area through which to pass quickly on the way to the spectacularly beautiful, pink and white walled Zion Canyon on the Virgin River. It is this Zion Canyon that gives its name to the National Park. A closer look along the way, however, reveals many highly interesting facts and features. If the visitor is interested in poking a bit beneath the surface appearances of the landscape, this country will come alive for him. Here are all the ingredients that went into the making of the more showy Virgin River canyon, but in this eastern area it is possible to examine them more intimately.
This part of the country is reached on Utah State Highway 15, from the west by way of Zion Canyon, or from the east from Mt. Carmel Junction. The traveler from the east will find the formations on the way to Zion National Park from either Bryce Canyon National Park, on the north, or Grand Canyon National Park, over the Arizona line to the south. In a region so abundant with colorful natural wonders, this area fully deserves its status as part of one of the great National Parks established to protect these natural wonders.
If you come west from the Mt. Carmel Junction, into Zion National Park, you will emerge gently into this colorfully carved introduction through Zion Canyon. The highway from the junction runs roughly west, climbing first over a series of plateau-ridges, then, near the entrance checking station at the Park boundary, it begins to descend gradually. Almost before you become aware of it, small canyons are born and mature rapidly on either side of the highway. By the time you reach the east portal of the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel the canyon that the highway has rough paralleled has become a vertically walled abyss. Intermingled with the deepening system of canyons that form the drainage of the usually dry plateau are great, gradually sloping, stratified sandstone pavements, with their delicately eroded concentric curves that are the delight of photographers and painters in search of interesting forms and color. The formation exposed in this area is the same Navajo Sandstone that forms the top layers of the cliffs and towers of Zion Canyon. Seen in these more intimate and accessible surroundings, the erosion sculptures fashioned by the artful fingers of wind and water can be more closely appreciated.
In the washes at the feet of these stone pavements, in the proper season, are many and varied wildflowers and plants. If your visit occurs during early summer, you may be rewarded by the sight of the bright-plumed spikes of yucca, or clumps of the brilliant orange butterfly milkweed. The sharp, linear, spike-like forms of the yuccas are in pleasing contrast to the swirling curves of the stratified rocks.
Probably the landmark that will be first remembered by most visitors to Zion National Park from the East is the pale pyramid of Checkerboard Mesa, whose bulk is framed in one’s windshield shortly after leaving the checking station. This is a well-known example of what geologists call “cross-bedding,” and tells us that this region, in a remote period of earth-history, was a dry, sandy, desert-like place. Only the caprice of desert winds, constantly shifting loose sand, could produce the intricate layered patterns as we see them today, solidified into rock. This rock, however, is relatively soft, and is highly susceptible to the sculpturing forces of erosion that patiently pluck it away, grain by grain.
Continued in the upcoming blog post, “Nature Magazine: East Of Zion 2.”
Learn more about Bryce Canyon National Park in the blog post, “New Release: Formations From Bryce Point, Bryce Canyon National Park.”