Zion National Park could be called a heaven on earth, a red-rock wonderland created by wind, water, and snow. Mormon pioneers arriving in the area in the 1860s were so overwhelmed by the natural beauty of Zion Canyon and its surroundings that they named it after the Old Testament name for the city of Jerusalem.
Day 1 – A geological outing
Zion was a relatively flat basin near sea level 240 million years ago. As sands, gravels, and muds eroded from surrounding mountains, streams carried these materials into the basin and deposited them in layers. The sheer weight of these accumulated layers caused the basin to sink, so that the top surface always remained near sea level.
As the land rose and fell and as the climate changed, the depositional environment fluctuated from shallow seas to coastal plains to a desert of massive windblown sand. This process of sedimentation continued until over 3.000 m of material accumulated.
Mineral-laden waters slowly filtered through the compacted sediments. Iron oxide, calcium carbonate, and silica acted as cementing agents, and with pressure from overlying layers over long periods of time, transformed the deposits into stone.
Ancient seabeds became limestone; mud and clay became mudstones and shale; and desert sand became sandstone. Each layer originated from a distinct source and so differs in thickness, mineral content, color, and eroded appearance.
Tunnels make travels from Zion to Bryce Canyon possible.
In an area from Zion to the Rocky Mountains, forces deep within the earth started to push the surface up. This was not chaotic uplift, but very slow vertical hoisting of huge blocks of the crust. Zion’s elevation rose from near sea level to as high as 10,000 feet above sea level.
This uplift gave the streams greater cutting force in their descent to the sea. Zion’s location on the western edge of this uplift caused the streams to tumble off the plateau, flowing rapidly down a steep gradient.
A fast-moving stream carries more sediment and larger boulders than a slow-moving river. These streams began eroding and cutting into the rock layers, forming deep and narrow canyons. Since the uplift began, the North Fork of the Virgin River has carried away several thousand feet of rock that once lay above the highest layers visible today.
With all this information from the geology boards we need a little lunch break.
The Virgin River is still excavating. Upstream from the Temple of Sinawava the river cuts through Navajo Sandstone, creating a slot canyon.
At the Temple, the river has reached the softer Kayenta Formation below. Water erodes the shale, undermining the overlaying sandstone and causing it to collapse, widening the canyon.
But today, we’re still in the area behind Mt Carmel tunnel and stop at every single turnout to be awed by the work of iron oxide.
Also the photogenic placed rocks and windswept grooves in otherwise flat hill sides are interesting features to look at.
Basically every stone a picture.
Some could be giant prints for the pantry.
And a small one for the office desk.
A thumbnail for the wallet.
Day 2 – Family walk to the Emerald Pools
The day starts with the search for a parking space. The huge parking around the visitor center is insanely full already when we turn up so we park outside the park and walk in.
The bus fills quickly, everybody stares through the skylights.
Our boy is easily rocked to sleep just by walking steadily. We leave the shuttle at the Zion Lodge.
Up we go, following the highway to the Emerald Pools.
The higher we come, the more peaks peek through the trees.
The first pool is filled by a stream that falls over a wall overhang, the path goes behind.
Must be stunning in spring with all the melting snow.
The trail is tucked safely in the sandy ledge at the back of the wall.
Further up we go!
This walk has everyting, from canyons, caves/caverns to waterfalls and pools, very worthwhile.
Water, even though Yosemite was completely dry, here it drizzels.
The second pool that feeds the cascade.
Back at the shuttle we take it to the Temple of Sinawava. Just a curious 30 min walk along the Virgin river, then we turn around, the day is advanced and we have booked an airbnb near Bryce Canyon.
Eyes up and out we shuttle.
Following the Mount Carmel Hwy along Pine Creek.
Thank you Zion, for all the orange glow, learned a lot about the staircase today.
Saying good bye to the red glow, the red mountains, the red streets.
Donations in form of Darbo Preiselbeer Kompott are greatly appreciated ;)