Michael A. Stecker

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Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park in southwestern Utah is named for a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Colorful red, brown, pink and white cliffs and spires called hoodoos are the parks most prominent and aesthetically appealing features.

During the Cretaceous Period (starting about 144 million years ago) a great inland seaway extended over much of south central and western USA into the area now occupied by Bryce Canyon. Over a 60 million year period it depositing sediments that eventually became the sedimentary rocks of the region -- the brown and gray marine rocks now exposed at the park's lowest elevations and across the Paria Valley. Then, in the Tertiary Period (66 - 40 million years ago) highlands to the west eroded into shallow, broad basins. Iron-rich calcific sediments were deposited in the beds of a series of lakes and streams. These became the reddish rocks of the Claron Formation from which the hoodoos (pillar of rock, usually of fantastic shape) are carved. About ten million years ago forces within the Earth erupted creating the massive uplifts of the Aquarius and Paunsaugunt plateaus. Rock layers on the Aquarius now tower 2,000 feet above the same layers of the Paunsaugunt. Consequently, older Cretaceous layers now rested side by side with younger Tertiary layers across fault lines. Ancient rivers then carved the tops and exposed edges of these blocks, removing some layers and sculpting intricate formations in others. The Paria Valley was created and later widened between the plateaus.

The Paiute indians are the indigenous people of the Bryce Canyon region. The first Euro-Americans to explore the area were Capt. Clarence E. Dutton and John Wesley Powell in the 1870s. Many of today's place names come from this time. Other names like Paunsaugunt (home of the beavers), Paria (muddy water), Panguitch (water or fish) and Yovimpa (point of pines) were derived from the Paiute language. The Paiutes were soon displaced by emissaries of the LDS Church (Mormons). Prime among them was Ebenezer Bryce for whom the canyon was named. In 1923 President Warren G. Harding proclaimed part of the area as Bryce Canyon National Monument under the Powell (now Dixie) National Forest. In 1924 legislation was passed to establish the area as Utah National Park. In 1928 its name was changed to Bryce Canyon National Park

Photos of Bryce Canyon
mouse click on any of the thumb nail images below for an enlargement