Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Introduction

Bryce Canyon National Park features hoodoos and spires in a natural amphitheater, attracting geologists and tourists alike.

Why Is It Famous?

This Utah landmark is famous for the fantastic shapes that its rock pinnacles take.

What’s Nearby?

Bryce Canyon National Park is in southern Utah on the Colorado Plateau.

Geological Description

The hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park are the result of water repeatedly freezing and melting into vertical cracks that existed in sedimentary rocks. Some of these hoodoos are incredibly tall, standing higher than a 10-story building. The unique shapes include narrow rock fins and bulging spires.

The hoodoos in their unique shapes are the result of water erosion over time, with minimal wind involvement. Gravity and ice also played a role, in addition to the water. Thanks to those forces and the Claron Formation’s differential erosion, the national park has unique morphology unlike that found anywhere else in the world.  

The Colorado Plateau caught and lifted the Paunsaugunt Plateau 10 to 15 million years ago. This led to the formation of joints that let water flow in. That water caused erosion that created gullies and rivulets, eventually creating the deep slot canyons.

The Claron Formation in Bryce Canyon National Park contains limestone, dolomite, mudstone, and siltstone. The undulating shapes on the hoodoos are the result of the fact that these rock types all erode at different rates. Frost was mostly responsible for eroding the hard siltstone, dolomite, and limestone. The soft mudstone ran more easily. Before their erosion, the rock formations at Bryce Canyon started developing between 144 and 63 million years ago.

Events in Time

Native Americans have been in the Bryce Canyon National Park for around 12,000 years, evidenced by worked stone artifacts. LDS Church emissaries displaced the Paiutes during the late 1800s. Visitors started arriving at the site in the early 1900s with 1923 seeing the official formation of the Bryce Canyon National Monument.

In Conclusion

The unique hoodoos with their fantastical shapes at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah are the result of water, ice, and gravity, causing erosion on rocks that were 63 to 144 million years old.