Monument Valley is a region of the Colorado Plateau characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 ft (300 m) above the valley floor. It is located on the Arizona-Utah state line.

Monument Valley has been featured in many forms of media since the 1930s. Director John Ford used the location for a number of his best-known films, and thus, in the words of critic Keith Phipps, “its five square miles have defined what decades of moviegoers think of when they imagine the American West.”

Arguably some of the planet’s most unique and spectacular geologic features are the narrow slot canyons of the Colorado Plateau — and the grand-daddy of them all is Buckskin Gulch in the BLM-managed Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness/National Monument. Straddling the Utah/Arizona border, this 13 mile long canyon is 400 feet deep and sometimes as narrow as six feet — not just at the bottom but all the way up to the canyon rims (thus the name “slot”). In places you can’t see the sky when looking up; only the sun’s indirect glow bouncing off the scalloped rock walls & creating an ever-changing colorful tapestry. Logs wedged between the narrow walls 20-30 feet above the stream-bed are a reminder to avoid the area during the summer monsoon, when flash floods combined with no escape routes make the canyon unsafe for hiking.

Photo: Bureau of Land Management


600 Million Years and Counting…

I was pretty bored so I decided to make some GIFs of the last 600 million years of our planet’s plate tectonics.

The first GIF is a global mollewide projection. The second one is of the Colorado Plateau and the North American Southwest. The next GIF is of the entire formation of the North American Continent. The fourth GIF is of geologic and tectonic evolution of Europe. And finally the last one is the same as the first except in rectangular format.

I obtained the images from Global Paleogeography and them compiled them one by one into Photoshop with the end result being the above GIFs.

Geology rocks


Boynton Canyon. Another beautiful hike in the red rocks a few miles west of the Sedona/Oak Creek area in northern Arizona. The trail winds along a cliff ledge through the canyon, provided breathtaking vistas. The only thing marring this canyon is the sudden appearance of a golf resort on the floor of the canyon. The buildings and lush green golf course look like a mirage because the area seems so remote.

Sedona is just below the base of the Mogollon Rim, an escarpment  forming the boundary between the Colorado Plateau to the north, where my city of Flagstaff is located, and the Basin and Range province to the south. The many canyons along the Rim are formed by erosion into the Plateau. The red rocks of the Sedona area are eroded from a sedimentary lens of iron-rich (hematite, or rust) sandstone called the Schnebly Hill formation after Schnebly Hill Road. Schnebly Hill sandstone was deposited as sand dunes near the shore of a shallow inland sea during the Permian Era 270–275 million years ago. For millions of years, the sea expanded and retreated in what is now the Southwest and Midwest USA. Limestone layers in the Schnebly Hill formation formed during incursions of the sea over the dunes.

"The Loop," six miles above the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers, snakes its way through Canyonlands National Park, a remote expanse in southeastern Utah.

Canyonlands protects one of the most unspoiled areas of the vast Colorado Plateau, full of canyon mazes, unbroken scarps, and sandstone pillars.

Photograph by Peter McBride, National Geographic

Horseshoe Bend Fisheye by David M Hogan

We had the worst conditions at Horseshoe Bend. The sun was in exactly the wrong place, there weren’t any clouds, and the wind was so fierce that we weren’t only getting sandblasted, we were also getting pelted by pebbles and rocks. That’s a bit unnerving when you’re standing at the top of a 1000 foot cliff! I did my best to capture the big contrasty view.

Colorado River just downstream from Page, Arizona.