Nature Magazine: East Of Zion 1

June 16th, 2011 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

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;[1] and a discount reseller of natural science books for its members.[2] It was founded by Arthur Newton Pack and his father, Charles.[3] Nature Magazine was an “illustrated monthly with popular articles about nature”[4] and later, the “interpreter of the great outdoors.”[5] 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.”[2] Natural History magazine absorbed Nature Magazine in January 1960.[6]


  1. WorldCat
  2. Journal Storage (JSTOR)
  3. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
  4. Google Books
  5. National Mail Order Association
  6. Smithsonian Institute Libraries

East Of Zion By Philip Hyde

A Glimpse of the Geology of Zion National Park

Wall Of Hidden Canyon, Zion National Park, Utah, copyright 1977 by Philip Hyde.

(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.”



  1. pj says:

    Interesting piece. There’s a huge difference between those photographers who pass through an area and merely scratch the surface, and those like your dad who dug deeper to capture more of the essence. Those differences are apparent in the depth and understanding that comes through in their work.

  2. Hi PJ, thank you for your insight into Dad’s type of study versus other ways of doing landscape photography. He definitely looked below the surface and inspired many others to do so as well. Indeed it was something along these lines that many of his workshop students and proteges said about him and his approach to the landscape.

  3. Sharon says:

    David, I clicked on your link to view the photograph larger and was looking through the gallery. Your dad’s photograph of Mill Creek Giants is awesome – the best redwood picture I have ever seen. It is now on my wish list with a couple of his Glen Canyon shots that I like so much.


  4. Hi Sharon, thank you on behalf of Dad. I agree, I like that Mill Creek Giants photograph too, but I have had resistance from some of my advisers. Maybe I need to bring it out again and take another poll. Also, there is the consideration of Dad’s two color Redwood photographs that he is most known for: “Founder’s Grove” and “Sun Through Giant Forest”
    The California Portfolio contains these two Redwood photographs. Out of all the many photographs of California I am not sure I can justify putting a third Redwood photograph in the California portfolio. Perhaps this is way more information than you wanted to know when you merely expressed your admiration for a great photograph. At any rate, I appreciate your input.

  5. Sharon says:

    I refreshed my memory of the other two photographs and I can certainly see that they deserve the recognition, but Mill Creek Giants is still my favorite redwood shot. I think it would make an exceptional print.


  6. Hi Sharon, thank you for returning. You’re right about it making a good print. I seem to remember seeing a dye transfer of it somewhere at some point, but it wasn’t that large. Peter Fetterman has on consignment a beautiful vintage print of the black and white version of the photograph. It is stunning too. I believe I have an extra large vintage print of the black and white as well, and maybe others. Now that you have brought this up, I am curious to look up exactly what I do have… OK, I’ve done some looking through the Philip Hyde Archive inventory that the University gave back to me and I found the transparency and 4X5 contact print for the index card, but there were no other color prints in their collection. I have been trying to find any black and white prints or negatives they had, but there are so many names that are similar and so many photographs of the same place that it is hard to know just looking through an Excel document without thumbnails of the images, especially since the Excel document is not complete. I will eventually get to the bottom of this, but through this process you may begin to see some of my frustrations and the drawbacks of having my father lose his eyesight before he had a chance to wrap everything up for people after him to understand. From looking at the negative numbers, it may be that the black and white photograph was a 5X7, which would mean he may have made the 4X5 color transparency with a 5X7 Deardorff view camera with a 4X5 back, then took the 4X5 back off and put on a 5X7 back. I’ll have to ask if this is possible. OK, now I have searched the inventory of my collection separate from the University collection. Now I believe the black and white photographs may have been a 4X5 also. If I now have the image correctly identified I believe I have three 8X10 black and white prints and one 20X24 black and white print of “Redwood Giants, Mill Creek Redwoods.” I am not where I can go to the physical prints and check for sure. Also, searching as broadly as “Redwood” I don’t find any color prints even in my inventory separate from the University’s. I will have to do more searching when I can. Hopefully this little discourse will help people understand the insanity that is my life now. Oh well, I suppose I am blessed in many ways. What a problem to have: I am blessed with enough world-class prints that I am confused by the collection and I can’t even find what I am trying to find. I suppose I am not the only photographer’s heir or even photographer who has this problem. I believe at times that it is the lot of those of us in this field, especially those who have an inventory both in the film paradigm and in the digital paradigm.

  7. Greg Russell says:

    David, this is a really nice introduction to Zion National Park, and a great image of Hidden Canyon (I was just there on Sunday). I agree that the high country of Zion has some really unique and beautiful hidden treasures that one can’t fully appreciate from Zion Canyon. In addition to visiting Hidden Canyon on my recent Zion trip, we also descended a technical slot canyon on the east side of the tunnel–I have never seen sandstone like I saw in there. If time hadn’t been an issue, I would have spent the whole day in there with my camera.


  8. Hi Greg, I appreciate this supplementary information on Zion National Park. Now, what were the GPS coordinates on that location again? Ha ha. That’s a somewhat bad joke based on Greg Russell’s excellent blog post, “iFotoGuide: a review” on which I made a comment about the controversy over disclosing environmentally sensitive landscape photography locations. From what you say, Greg, we will hear more on the subject at some point. Personally, I feel it is inspiring and enlightening to hear your description of your adventures, explorations and travels in Zion National Park. Why can’t good landscape photographers leave it at that as you have, rather than providing a step by step, color by numbers treasure hunt map and GPS coordinates to the exact locations? I want to have my creativity sparked and my hankering for exploration triggered, but let me find my own secret locations, don’t spoon feed me or lead me like an old donkey to the watering trough.

  9. Derrick says:

    Lovely images and backstory. Consider it added to my list of places I need to see in person.

  10. I appreciate your reading of this post, Derrick. Zion is well-worth seeing.

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