Imagine a hand almost the size of France, miles below the Four Corners (Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado) slowly lifting sediments deposited in the North American inland sea and sand dunes of a desert like the Sahara created eons ago. Slow as it went, it raised the Plateau by over 10,000 feet (3,000 m.)
A series of coincidences has created the beautiful, savage and hostile landscapes we now explore in National and State Parks in these four southern States.
The most interesting coincidence is the fact that the hand lifted the Plateau in one piece, and at almost exactly the rate of water erosion in the Plateau.
Zion, our last National Park visited this trip, is a great example of this coincidence. (And so is the Grand Canyon -1977.)
The tiny Virgin river and its tributaries, is responsible for carving a half-mile deep gorge in Zion National Park. As the Plateau rose an inch, the Virgin river dug an inch too... slowly gouging the rocks around to leave peaks and mesas as colourful as they are visually impressive. The water followed the cracks created by tectonic forces and the ridges of ancient dunes sculpting stunning mesas, criss-crossing them as giant checkers.
We are in the canyon, following a steep river surrounded by rock walls covered by desert patina, red ochre and deep black. The springs are all over, as this is the rainy season, bringing flowering plants in these water logged oasis.
It is easy to feel that this is a comfortable place until a flash flood raises the water level by 15 to 30 feet, rushing with boulders the size of a large house and destroying everything on its path. We were lucky enough not to experience it; the Park had to close a few times because of these flash floods.
We have been to Zion National Park in the 70's Zion 1977, before the shuttle..., in 2007 and now in 2012. We certainly prefer Spring or Fall visits. This year, it was August, and we shortened our stay because of the unpleasant 40 C (100 F) humid heat at noon and the crowds...Even evenings are warmer that we care for.
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