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The Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon at sunsetThe escarpment on the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau provides a delight of nature that surpasses spectacular. Approaching Sunrise Point from the west, Bryce Canyon unfolds before us in the pre-dawn morning. Having never been to Bryce Canyon before, I was awestruck. Carved from the Tertiary Claron Formation, hoodoos extend throughout an amphitheater-like erosional wonderland.

The Claron formation is composed of siltstone, mudstone, and limestone that were deposited during the late Paleocene and early Eocene. It is primarily limestone, with smaller amounts of mudstone and pockets of conglomerate. Southwestern Utah was covered at that time by an extensive lake system. This system was fed, in early times, from the north and northwest, and these streams and rivers deposited conglomerate found today. Around 50 million years ago, the basin covered by this lake system began to fill with fine sediment. Eventually, the entire area was covered in limy mud.

The deposition of sediment is seen clearly in the hoodoos. The lacustrine (lake) deposits exhibit times where more limy sediment is interrupted by the softer, less erosion-resistant mudstone and siltstone. Very clear levels of thicker limestone deposits are seen in the level height of hoodoos throughout the amphitheater. Where the deeper deposits of limestone exist, hundreds of hoodoos of that height are seen. Lower in the amphitheater, more exposed to the erosional forces, yet another level of hoodoos live. The erosion resistant limestone protects the softer material below from erosion. Sandstone is not very prominent in the stratigraphy, but does exist, and it erodes at a rate between the easily erodable mudstones and siltstones, and the more resistant limestone. These varying erosional rates account for the formation of the incredible hoodoos on this beautiful escarpment.

View pictures of my hike into Bryce Canyon!

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