The Road to Bryce
|I first entered the Grand Staircase National Monument on the way to Bryce Canyon National park.|
In the 1870s, geologist Clarence Dutton first conceptualized this region as a huge stairway ascending out of the bottom of the Grand Canyon northward with the cliff edge of each layer forming giant steps. Dutton divided this layer cake of Earth history into five steps from the youngest (uppermost) rocks: Pink Cliffs, Grey Cliffs, White Cliffs, Vermilion Cliffs, and Chocolate Cliffs.
Since then, modern geologists have further divided Dutton's steps into 24 individual rock layers and formations.
Each "riser" is a cliff or slope as much as 3,000 feet high and each "tread" is a plateau, terrace, or flat that is as much as 15 miles wide.
|There seemed to be rain in the forecast|
|I, once again, found myself surrounded by a maze of canyons|
|At times I was ovelooking the canyons, then I was down inside looking up|
|"No animal without wings could cross the deep gulches in the sandstone basin at our feet. The stream we had followed and whose course soon became lost in the multitude of chasms before us was not the one we were in search of but an unknown, unnamed river, draining the eastern slope of the Aquarius Plateau and flowing through a deep, narrow canyon to the Colorado River. Believing our party to be the discoverers, we decided to call this stream, in honor of Father Escalante, the old Spanish explorer, Escalante River and the country it drains Escalante Basin." Almon H. Thompson, 1872|
Yet we now have a road through it.
|In 1871, the region of south central Utah and northern Arizona west of the Colorado River was the last uncharted territory in what is now the Lower 48 States. This included much of what is now the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument.|
That year, Major John Wesley Powell (Lake Powell is named for him) launched the Second Powell Expedition to explore and map this frontier, continuing the work he had begun three years earlier. He led the expedition safely through the wild waters of the Green and Colorado Rivers to the Paria River. His brother-in-law, Almon H. Thompson then led the expedition overland to map, what to them was "the unknown country," although the Indians had known the area well for thousands of years. The mapping took four years to complete. Utah Highway 12 now follows the exact route in this area.
|This formation was a short distance from the Bryce Canyon Park Boundary|
After the North Rim - The Vermillion Cliffs
|The Vermilion Cliffs are the second "step" up in the five-step Grand Staircase of the Colorado Plateau. The Cliffs are made up of deposited silt and desert dunes, cemented by infiltrated carbonates and intensely colored by red iron oxide and other minerals, particularly bluish manganese. The 3,000-foot escarpment of the Vermilion Cliffs reveals seven major geologic formations in layer-cake fashion.|
Although these cliffs are the second step in the Staircase, they are a national monument of their own.
|These two photo show parts of three steps of the Staircase, vermillion, white and parts of the grey cliffs. It's as much as I saw at one time.|
A closer look at the white cliffs
|Some closer shots of the Vermillion Cliffs|
|The Vermillion Cliffs do not end here, they curve around to the north following marble canyon along the Colorado River back into Utah|
|This chart shows a cutaway of the steps of the Grand Staircase. The Grand Canyon is on the right and Bryce Canyon is at the top left.|