~ Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument ~

Before I knew it was there, I started at the top step of the Grand Staircase at Byrce Canyon National Park. The pink and salmon colored cliffs there represent the last step up an a stairway stretching from Bryce to the Grand Canyon over 130 miles south.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument spans nearly 1.9 million acres of America's public lands. From its spectacular Grand Staircase of cliffs and terraces, across the rugged Kaiparowits Plateau, to the wonders of the Escalante River Canyons, the Monument's size, resources, and remote character provide extraordinary opportunities for geologists, paleontologists, archeologists, historians, and biologists in scientific research, education, and exploration. It is the first monument to be administered by the Bureau of Land Management, rather than the National Park Service. I don't know if that's a good thing or not. Time will tell. The mission of the NPS is to preserve and protect, while the mission of BLM is sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

The land rises in broad, tilted terraces which form the Grand Staircase. From the south the terraces step up in great technicolor cliffs: Chocolate, Vermilion, White, Gray, Pink. Together these escarpments expose 200 million years of the earth's history in a dramatic geologic library.

President Bill Clinton designated the area as a U.S. National Monument in 1996 using his authority under the Antiquities Act. In terms of land area, it is the largest of all U.S. National Monuments.

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

Escalante Basin

"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

Guess who?

Cedar Mountain

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.

Music is "Stairway To Heaven"

I Am A Member Of:
The Phenomenal Men Of The Web?
The Phenomenal Men Of The Web

Sign my Guestbook from Bravenet.com Get your Free Guestbook from Bravenet.com

Back to 2011 Travel
Back to Travel Photography
Back Home