Ranger Kathryn's Arches

November 11, 2011

Cataract Canyon 4: Side canyons

(Continued from Cataract Canyon 3: Doll’s House)

Like overgrown sinuous tendrils, countless side canyons empty into the Colorado. Some are prodigious, some are diminutive, but all — when wet — carry sediment and debris inexorably down, down, down. All have discoveries worth seeking. Here are five.

Limestone makes an appearance in these sandstone canyons. Abundant fossils — crinoids, sponge spicules, and more — indicate that this area was covered by a tropical shallow sea.

Beavertail Cactus, a pricklypear unique for its spinelessness, is usually found much farther south. This purplish color is real.

Flash-flood-carved slots in the rock contain white foreground boulders the size of couches. One can only imagine the power of the torrent that moved them there in Water Canyon.

Wet sand captures animal tracks. Raccoon here, but plenty of beaver, kit fox, and ungulates (hoofed mammals) as well.

Archeological sites abound, including many granaries for storage of crops. It never ceases to amaze me how the ancestral Puebloans positioned these structures for difficult access. Double-click on the photo to better see the door in the center.

We’re all discoverers, on some level; it’s what humans do. What do you explore?

—  Continued at this link

March 26, 2010

Little Wild Horse Canyon, almost

Little Wild Horse Canyon, near Goblin Valley State Park, UT

No rain within 50 miles. That’s the requirement for entering slot canyons, which are deeper than they are wide, and are formed by violent running water in sandstone or limestone. Little Wild Horse Canyon, 90 minutes west, was our destination.

The trailhead is disturbingly popular, with half a dozen vehicles already there. Rats; I like the illusion (since I can’t have the reality) of having a place to ourselves. We sign in at the register so that they’ll know we were there if a flash flood carries our bodies into the next county.

I won’t go into the details of the “almost” in the title, except to say that we missed a right-hand turn and ended up in left-hand Bell Canyon instead of the slot we wanted. It was miles before we figured out our error, so we backtracked a short way into Little Wild Horse with the few minutes we had remaining. It was mesmerizing, mysterious, beautiful.

Utah has more slot canyons than anywhere in the U.S., due to its climate and geology; I think there are a few discovery trips I need to go on.

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