Canyonlands National Park is located in southeastern Utah and covers an area of approximately 337,598 acres. The park is renowned for its stunning landscapes, including deep canyons, towering mesas, and dramatic rock formations.
Canyonlands National Park is situated on the Colorado Plateau, which is a large geological province covering parts of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. The region was once a vast inland sea, and as the sea level rose and fell over millions of years, layers of sediment were deposited on the sea floor. These sediments were eventually uplifted and exposed to the forces of erosion, resulting in the stunning rock formations we see today.
The oldest rocks in Canyonlands National Park are the Precambrian basement rocks, which are approximately 1.7 billion years old. These rocks are made up of granite, gneiss, and schist and form the foundation upon which the younger sedimentary rocks rest.
Above the Precambrian basement rocks is the Wingate Sandstone, which is approximately 200 to 245 million years old, dating back to the late Triassic to early Jurassic period. The Wingate Sandstone is a thick layer of cross-bedded, fine-grained sandstone that forms the towering cliffs that are the most prominent feature of the park. The sandstone was formed from ancient sand dunes that were buried and compressed over millions of years.
Above the Wingate Sandstone is the Chinle Formation, which is composed of mudstone, shale, siltstone, and sandstone. The Chinle Formation is approximately 180 to 225 million years old, dating back to the late Triassic to early Jurassic period. The Chinle Formation is known for its distinctive red and purple colors, which are the result of the presence of iron oxide minerals.
Above the Chinle Formation is the Moenkopi Formation, which is composed of sandstone, siltstone, and mudstone. The Moenkopi Formation is approximately 220 to 240 million years old, dating back to the late Triassic period. The Moenkopi Formation is known for its thin, white sandstone layers, which are often interbedded with red sandstone layers.
The youngest rocks in Canyonlands National Park are the Cutler Formation, which is composed of sandstone, siltstone, and shale, and the Navajo Sandstone, which is composed of cross-bedded sandstone. The Cutler Formation is approximately 210 to 290 million years old, dating back to the late Permian to early Triassic period, while the Navajo Sandstone is approximately 200 to 245 million years old, dating back to the late Triassic to early Jurassic period.
The geology of Canyonlands National Park is characterized by a series of deep canyons, including the famous Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, which is approximately 277 miles long and up to 18 miles wide. The canyons were formed by the erosive forces of water and wind, which have slowly carved away the sandstone and shale layers over millions of years.
Another unique feature of the geology of Canyonlands National Park is the presence of rock spires, which are tall, narrow formations of sandstone that rise up from the canyon floor. These formations are known as “hoodoos” or “goblins” and were formed by the differential erosion of the softer shale layers, leaving behind the harder sandstone formations.
Canyonlands National Park also contains a number of natural arches, which are formed when water and wind erode the rock layers, leaving behind a thin, flat layer of rock
Canyonlands National Park Map
Canyonlands National Park 4×4 Trails