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The Grand Staircase Geology

geo pic bryceDid you know that Bryce Canyon is geologically part of the Grand Staircase—the same staircase that is part of the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument? Until recently, I didn’t realize how all three of our National Parks, Bryce CanyonZion Park, and the Grand Canyon are connected and relate to the the Grand Staircase National Monument.

The basic explanation is that Bryce Canyon is at the top of the staircase. Its floor is about the same strata as the top of Zion Canyon. Zion Canyon’s floor is about the strata of the rim of the Grand Canyon making a set of giant geological steps.

More specifically, the steps are defined by the age and color of the rocks. When you visit these canyons, take particular note of the color of the cliffs. The youngest rocks (which are the uppermost rocks ie. Bryce Canyon) are the Pink Cliffs then the Grey Cliffs, White Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs, and Chocolate Cliffs. One of the fascinating parts of going to the canyons is that you see more than one layer at a time just like someone took a big slice out of a cake.

There are great resources on the web with more technical and specific information about the Grand staircase geology. (see below) I find the pictures and diagrams fascinating. For instance, look at the first figure. Locate Zion Canyon and then notice how it cuts down through several strata reaching down almost to the rim layer of the Grand Canyon. (Click here for a larger image.)


geo fig 1


This second figure is a little more basic but still interesting and emphasizes a little bit more the geologic relationship between Bryce, Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks.

geo fig 2


And finally the photo taken at the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument that shows the different steps.

geo pic 1

Take a day trip. Visit Zion (or one of the other parks) look at the different colors of rock formations and know that they represent thousands and thousands of years in the difference of their ages. I’m so grateful to live in such an awe inspiring area. Click around on some of these links and learn the nitty gritty of the earth around us.

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