Zion National Park is a national park located in southwestern Utah near the town of Springdale. It sits about 160 miles from Las Vegas and 308 miles from Salt Lake City. The canyon walls are reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone eroded by the North Fork of the Virgin River. The park has a unique geography and a variety of life zones that allow for unusual plant and animal diversity. The distinctive geographical characteristics is due to its location at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert regions. Zion National Park includes mountains, canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths, rivers, slot canyons, and arches.
Zion National Park Estimated Location: 37.235844, -112.961721
Streams in the area take rectangular paths because they follow jointing planes in the rocks. The stream gradient (the grade measured by the ratio of drop in elevation of a stream per unit horizontal distance) of the Virgin River, whose North Fork flows through Zion Canyon in the park, ranges from 50 to 80 feet per mile. The stream gradient is one of the steepest in North America.
The road into Zion Canyon is 6 miles (9.7 km) long, ending at the Temple of Sinawava, which is named for the coyote god of the Paiute Indians. The canyon becomes more narrow near the Temple and a hiking trail continues to the mouth of The Narrows, a gorge so tight but reaches 2,000 feet (610 m) tall. The Zion Canyon road is served by a free shuttle bus from early April to late October and by private vehicles the other months of the year. Other roads in Zion are open to private vehicles year-round.
Other notable geographic features of Zion Canyon include Angels Landing, The Great White Throne, the Court of the Patriarchs, The West Temple, Towers of the Virgin, the Altar of Sacrifice, the Watchman, Weeping Rock, and the Emerald Pools.
Zion Canyon Scenic Drive provides access to Zion Canyon. Traffic congestion in the narrow canyon was recognized as a major problem in the 1990s and a public transportation system using gas-powered shuttle buses was instituted in the year 2000. As part of its shuttle fleet, Zion has two electric trams each holding up to 36 passengers. Usually from early April through late October, the scenic drive in Zion Canyon is closed to private vehicles and visitors ride the shuttle buses.
The nine known exposed geologic formations in Zion National Park are part of a super-sequence of rock units called the Grand Staircase. Together, these formations represent about 150 million years of mostly Mesozoic-aged sedimentation in that part of North America.
The Great Basin, Mojave Desert, and Colorado Plateau converge at Zion and the Kolob canyons. This, along with the varied topography of canyon–mesa country, differing soil types, and uneven water availability, provides diverse habitat for the equally diverse mix of plants and animals that live in the area. The park is a habitat to more than 250 birds, 79 mammals, 28 reptiles, 7 fish, and 6 amphibian species. These organisms make their homes in one or more of four life zones found in the Park: desert, riparian, woodland, and coniferous forest.
Desert conditions persist on canyon bottoms and rocky ledges away from perennial streams. Sagebrush, prickly pear cactus, and rabbitbrush, along with sacred datura and Indian paintbrush, are common plants in the area. Utah penstemon and golden aster can also be found. Milkvetch and prince’s plume are found in pockets of selenium-rich soils.
Common daytime animals include mule deer, rock squirrels, pinyon jays, and whiptail and collared lizards. Desert cottontails, jackrabbits, and Merriam’s kangaroo rats come out at night. Cougars, bobcats, coyotes, badgers, gray foxes, and ring-tail cats are the top predators.
Golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, peregrine falcons, and white-throated swifts can be seen in the area. Desert bighorn sheep were reintroduced in the park in 1973. California condors were reintroduced in the Arizona Strip and in 2014 the first successful breeding of condors in the park was confirmed. Nineteen species of bat also live in the area.
Below are the rest of the images taken from the park.
The Eastern Scenery of Zion National Park and the Navajo Sandstone
The east side of the park is served by Zion-Mount Carmel Highway (SR-9), which passes through the Zion–Mount Carmel Tunnel and ends at Mount Carmel. On the east side of the park, notable park features include Checkerboard Mesa and the East Temple.
Navajo Sandstone is a geological formation in the Glen Canyon Group that is spread across the U.S. states of southern Nevada, northern Arizona, northwest Colorado, and Utah as part of the Colorado Plateau province of the United States.
The Navajo Sandstone is particularly prominent in southern Utah, where it forms the main attractions of a number of national parks and monuments including Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Zion National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and Canyonlands National Park.
Navajo Sandstone frequently occurs as spectacular cliffs, cuestas, domes, and bluffs rising from the desert floor. It can be distinguished from adjacent Jurassic sandstones by its white to light pink color, meter-scale cross-bedding, and distinctive rounded weathering.
The wide range of colors exhibited by the Navajo Sandstone reflect a long history of alteration by groundwater and other subsurface fluids over the last 190 million years. The different colors, except for white, are caused by the presence of varying mixtures and amounts of hematite, goethite, and limonite filling the pore space within the quartz sand comprising the Navajo Sandstone. The iron in these strata originally arrived via the erosion of iron-bearing silicate minerals.
Initially, this iron accumulated as iron-oxide coatings, which formed slowly after the sand had been deposited. Later, after having been deeply buried, reducing fluids composed of water and hydrocarbons flowed through the thick red sand which once comprised the Navajo Sandstone. The dissolution of the iron coatings by the reducing fluids bleached large volumes of the Navajo Sandstone a brilliant white. Reducing fluids transported the iron in solution until they mixed with oxidizing groundwater. Where the oxidizing and reducing fluids mixed, the iron precipitated within the Navajo Sandstone.
Depending on local variations within the permeability, porosity, fracturing, and other inherent rock properties of the sandstone, varying mixtures of hematite, goethite, and limonite precipitated within spaces between quartz grains. Variations in the type and proportions of precipitated iron oxides resulted in the different black, brown, crimson, vermillion, orange, salmon, peach, pink, gold, and yellow colors of the Navajo Sandstone.
The precipitation of iron oxides also formed laminea, corrugated layers, columns, and pipes of ironstone within the Navajo Sandstone. Being harder and more resistant to erosion than the surrounding sandstone, the ironstone weathered out as ledges, walls, fins, “flags”, towers, and other minor features, which stick out and above the local landscape in unusual shapes.
Below are the rest of the images from the eastern part of the park along the State Route 9.
Images owned by Chomoscience.