~ Zion National Park - Day One ~

Located in Southwestern Utah, Zion National Park encompasses some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States. The park is characterized by high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep sandstone canyons and striking rock towers and mesas.

Zion National Park is a showcase of geology. Geologic processes have played an important role in shaping Zion. The arid climate and sparse vegetation allow the exposure of large expanses of bare rock and reveal the park's geologic history.

Immutable yet ever changing, the cliffs of Zion stand resolute, a glowing presence in late day, a wild calm. Melodies of waters soothe desert-parched ears, streams twinkle over stone, wren song cascades from red rock cliffs, cottonwood leaves jitter on the breeze. But when lightning flashes water falls erupt from dry cliffs, and floods flash down waterless canyons exploding log jams, hurling boulders, croaking wild joyousness, and dancing stone and water and time. Zion is alive with movement, a river of life always here and always changing.

Everything in Zion takes life from the Virgin River's scarce desert waters. Water flows, and solid rock melts into cliffs and towers. Landscape changes as canyons deepen to create forested highlands and lowland deserts. A ribbon of green marks the river's course as diverse plants and animals take shelter and thrive in this canyon oasis. From the beginning people sought this place, this sanctuary in the desert's dry reaches. The very name Zion, a Hebrew word for refuge, evokes its significance.

Sources: National Park Service brochure and website.

Entering Zion

On March 30, 2009, President Barrack Obama signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act into law designating 124,406 acres of Zion National Park as Wilderness. The designation of the backcountry of Zion National Park as Wilderness adds another layer of protection to the wildlands of Zion National Park. The Zion Wilderness Area will be managed under the direction of the 1964 Wilderness Act. Nearly the entire park above the canyon rim is wilderness.

Follow the red asphalt road

Bleeding rocks

Patchwork quilted cliffs; these four photos are from the Crazy Quilt Mesa

Zion is panoramas

On the left is the Temple Cap Formation

Remnants of ancient sand dunes

White and red cliffs

I think the formation on the right is so cool

Narrow side canyons that fill with raging waters when it rains

Waiting to pass through the 1.1 mile tunnel complete with curves

Through the Tunnel - Impassable Barrier

The photo on the left was taken from within the tunnel. The light comes from a window in the cliff face.

In the 1920s the east end of the canyon appeared to be a dead end, an impassable barrier to transportation. To highway engineers the toughest challenge was the cliff in the photo on the left above. Building a highway over or around it was not possible. Their solution: a one-mile tunnel behind the cliff face. When tunnel and highway were completed in 1930, it opened the region to motor tourism, linking Zion to Bryce and the Grand Canyon's North Rim.
Work on the tunnel began with drilling small shafts into the north-facing cliff shown in both photos above. These shafts later became the tunnel's windows or galleries. The four galleries are a source of light and air in the tunnel.
Now the tunnel itself has become a kind of barrier, as today's RVs and tour buses are too large for two-way traffic within the tunnel. Their solution: To charge $15.00 fo any vehicle exceeding 94 inches (Arvie is 95 inches) in width. The charge stands even though all traffic is delayed for passing through the tunnel. I wonder where the $15.00 goes? It should go toward enlarging the tunnel.
Once through the one-mile tunnel, I was faced with panorama after panorama. The zigzag road down into the canyon provided a wealth of photographic opportunities.

On the right is Zion's "Great Arch", which isn't an arch. Yet.

In the photo on the right a part of the road switchback is shown. We not only had to go through the cliff, we had to then descend to the canyon floor via a series of six switchbacks. Geologically, the lowest layer of Bryce Canyon is the highest layer here at Zion. I had to come down a long way to get here, then a longer way down to the bottom of the canyon. Conversely, Tte lowest layer here is the highest layer at Grand Canyon National Park. And that is how the Grand Staircase - Escalante is structured.
Looking back to the east with the cliff through which the tunnel was carved on the right

Another of a window in the tunnel is on the left
The east section is predominately white cliffs of Navajo Sandstone. The red under them is Kayenta Mudstone. This shows the West Temple and the Towers of the Virgin.

On the left is the final switchback and the floor of the canyon. There is a small bridge over the creek that cuts this canyon. This is not Zion Canyon, but a side canyon leading to the junction with Zion Canyon.

The bottom
The two photos above were taken from the bridge on the final switchback. There is a creek there, but in Spetember there wasn't much water in it. See below right.

Signing was scarce or non-existent on the drive down from the tunnel exit. Consequently, I do not have the names of these formations and peaks.

It took me a long time to travel the twelve miles from the East Entrance to the Visitor Center. I stopped at every possible wide spot in the road to take these photos.

At the Campground

I don't know what this bluebird was finding to eat, but he spent a lot of time finding it

Then there was this yellow warbler giving it a try


One robin

And two bluebirds in a tree

Music is "Lord I Hope This Day Is Good"

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