* Congress created Bryce National Monument in 1923;
* In 1928, Bryce Canyon was designated Bryce Canyon National Park;
* Bryce Canyon is part of The Paunsaugunt Plateau;
* There are a lot of nicknames for Bryce Canyon, like Catherdral Valley and the Bryce Amphitheatre;
* Bryce Canyon is the youngest step of The Grand Staircase;
* The name of the step Bryce Canyon is part of is called Pink Cliffs.
The beforesaid – horizontal layers and vertical joints is very distinctively seen in the hoodoos all over the place.
The hoodoos are formed by frost wedging on the one hand – which results in the joints and cracks.
In addition, the slightly acidic rainfall dissolves the limestone and over the years
the little-rocks-standing-like-men are carved out of the Bryce Canyon layers –
- which brings us back to the legend of how Bryce Canyon was formed.
In addition to weathering, also chemical erosion takes place. Rain water can carry traces of acid. These dissolve calcium carbonate, cemented between the individual grains. The result are constantly increasing and forming holes, cavities, alcoves.
Oxidation takes place as well. Remember, the layers contain iron and manganese.
Iron bearing minerals – in contamination with water – will rust (oxidize) and form haematite, the red colored mineral.
If more water is in contact with the iron bearing minerals, yellow colored limonite is formed.
And finally, manganese oxide adds a little blue or purple or lavender to the scenery.
Different sculptures are formed where different chemistry is involved in the layers.
The upper layers of white fresh-water limestone is quite massive and it’s “missing” impurities makes it more resistent to erosion than the reddish silt and clay parts in the layers below.
In the picture, an example for this is seen – a close-up into Sunrise Point – alternating beds of carbonate rich (white) and carbonate poor (red) rocks, which are so characteristic for Bryce Canyon formation.
Lake Flagstaff eventually drained and vanished and left exposed the textured rock strata of Wasatch and Brianhead Formation to the weather forces – sculpturing of the soft rocks started.
Clearly visible in the amazing maze of Bryce Canyon are the “geometrics” of erosion – the rock strata are sitting horizontally on top of each other, while cracks or joints kind of vertically separate them from each other.
These cracks are formed on the one hand by the still constant earth movements, which started to cleave the layers a bit. On the other hand by the water, intruding into these fine lines, freezing during cold climate and thus enlarging the lines to cracks or joints.
The picture is a close shot into Silent City at Inspiration Point.
Wasatch Formation is not uniform in its texture. Pure limestone swap with mudstones and sandstones and conglomerate. All layers are bound together by the varying content of calcium carbonate.
Wasatch Formation cemented now and compacted into a 2000 ft thick sequence of rock layers – of which we see most of today in Bryce Canyon.
However, it was covered by Brianhead Formation, tight conglomerate, which holds together Wasatch Formation – without it, erosion would have blown or wept away much of Bryce Canyons todays’ wonderland.
The lowest layer in this sea was Dakota Formation, followed by Tropic Shale with dark grey clay muds. More and more sea sediments were deposited to result in the marine sandstones of Straight Cliff Formation. Then, water was drained away, and rivers dropped their sands, gravels and shales - Wahweap and Kaiparowits formation have been built.
Finally, Wasatch limestone was deposited, which is Bryce Canyons most prominent rock formation.
This was the time when “Lake Flagstaff” captured the basin which is now seen again east of Bryce Canyon.
Bryce Canyon – how can Earth produce such a masterpiece of colors, cliffs, rock formations that speed us back into childhood where we strongly believed in dwarfs, princesses and castles ?
Bryce Canyon is the youngest wonderland within the Colorado Plateau – “only” 65 million years old. In terms of geology, it is dating back to late Mesozoic epoch (100 mio years) to early Cenozoic epoch (20 mio years).
In the picture, which is a scan of a graphic from the booklet “The story behind the scenery”, it can be seen how and where this is located in Earth history. During these times, the location which is Bryce Canyon today, did undergo many processes – it once was sea, seashore, coastal plain and in the younger geologic aera a lake. This makes it’s uniqueness for geologists, who can almost read like in a book in each of the strata layers of Bryce Canyon.
The plate tectonic theory tells us that Earth crust (which consists of several mobile plates), is under more or less constant movement. The plates have moved and collided several times over the eons, giving rise to dramatic changes in the surface – e.g. the Continental Drift, which separated South America from Africa.
Over the eons, Grand Staircase has started to develop or build-up her strata and at a point in time, where now is Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon was once a sea.
Fondest memory: The Story Behind the Scenery
Bryce Canyon is photographers’ heavenly wonderland. If you are seriously into taking pictures, you will easily leave the canyon with 10 rolls of film or 500 digi pictures….
The best picture taking times of the day and the locations would be:
Dawn: of course Sunrise Point to get the best shots of the Main Amphitheartre. Also Bryce Point is nice for that.
However, I’ve seen a picture in the web (please see link below) with the sun rising over Aquarius Plateau directly “behind” Thor’s Hammer, providing him with a kind of halo which spectacular. You might want to get a similar shot !
Midmorning to early afternoon: the best time now for vanishing into the hiking trails, as the sun is not that intense and “light destroying” as up on the rim. Plus, deep in the trail canyons, you have the chance to get exciting shoots of the red-orange rocks set against the everpresent blue sky. Like in the one in my picture – almost incredible contrast !
Late afternoon: you will need to find your spot like a sardine in a can among all the visitors huddling to get the best shots in Sunset Point or Bryce Point.
But – you’ll be happy when you get your rolls developed or work on the digi ones on your computer :-)
Fondest memory: The Hunter with the morning glory
As mentioned earlier, Paiute Indians did call Bryce Canyon unka-timpe-wa-wince-pock-ich - which means bowl-shaped-canyon-filled-with-red-rocks-standing-up-like-men.
There is even a legend about this name:
The canyon was built as city for the people of god coyote (four legged creatures, birds, lizzards and human-like beings). However, the coyote people spent too much time to beautify their city – which the God did not like.
Furiously, he poured all of their paint buckets over their heads and transformed them into rocks.
This is what we see today – red rocks, standing up like men :-)
For full NPS details of Bryce Canyon, just click here:
Bryce Canyon General Information
Another good site is Desert USA, just click here :
Bryce Canyon Information Site
Fairyland is the Walt Disney world of Bryce Canyon National Park. Here you will find hoodoos of all shapes and sizes strewn about like toys in a children's playroom. The Fairyland Trail circles Fairyland as it leads to the Silent City.
In the winter, Fairyland is closed to motorized vehicles and used as a cross country ski area. Snowshoeing is allowed on the trail as well.
Fairyland is one of my favorite spots in the park. I'd highly recommend visiting this area and hiking into the ampitheatre to see the hoodoos up close.
Favorite thing: The Silent City covered in snow. In the summer, its walls, pale brown beneath the desert sun, are irresistable and make you want to run down the steep trail. In the winter, when its 12 degrees outside and the wind blows snow into your already freezing face, you want to run back to your car and turn the heater on. Hiking is not an option on a barely above zero day, but this view is enough to make you want to leave the heated comfort of your car, if only for a few moments.
Bryce Point is considered by many to be one of the most scenic spots in the park. It has an excellent view of Bryce Ampitheatre, teeming with hoodoos. From here, you can take the Peekaboo Loop Trail into the ampitheatre to see the scenery up close. You can also take the Rim trail and towards Fairyland.
The view from here is one of those quintessentially Bryce Canyon images often found on postcards. It is absolutely stunning, but, in my opinion, the best spots in Bryce are those that are a bit more remote. This is a worthy stopping point and one which you should not miss. But don't let your Bryce Canyon journey end here.
Fondest memory: So different from late May when hordes of tour buses and tour cars jammed each tiny parking lot. Today, maybe 1/2 dozen cars ventured down this road. That's the way to experience a National Park. In pristine isolation.