Southeastern Utah has an astounding amount of sedimentary rock on full display. Between our stays in Silverton Colorado and Moab Utah we made a trek through this area. One day hardly does this area justice but what we were able to see was amazing. The sedimentary layers are best seen in the gorge of the San Juan River as it carves its way through a thick layer of hundreds of square miles of sedimentary rock layers that have slowly upwarped over time. Below is an image I captured from Google maps and then annotated with some places that we visited or were close to those I am going to show photographs of.
Bluff UT is just to the right of this image. We knew we were entering an area were we would be seeing the hard Navajo sandstone capping off thousands of layers of red sandstones when we came down into Bluff and stopped at the Twin Rocks cafe. Below is a picture of the rocks looming over the trading post (cafe was next door).
From Bluff UT we traveled through comb ridge through the valley on the right and then back up onto a relatively flat area as we drove down to Goosenecks State Park. One of places I wanted to take a picture of was a former channel of the San Juan River that had been cut off. Below is a close up from Google Maps showing this cut-off “gooseneck.” But I missed the small dirt road leading to this unique geological feature and there was road work so there was only one lane of traffic and I couldn’t turn around. Instead I will have to rely on a picture loaded onto Paramino of this feature.
Below is a picture of this former waterway of the San Juan. What you can’t see here is the San Juan River in a deeper channel running behind this central mound. Notice that the bottom of the canyon is filled in a bit over time so that it rounded with erosion. One has to wonder how long it has been since any water ran around this portion of the San Juan channel. If you click for the larger image you can get a sense for the size of some of the blocks are sandstone that have fallen from the top edge. The fact that there are not many on the bottom of this channel suggest that they do not fall very often as they are very slow to erode.
Just a few miles south we come to the intersection where we turned off to head to the Goosenecks of the San Juan State Park. If we had driven further south we would come to the town of Mexican Hat and then the State of Arizona. I took quite a few pictures here because there were spectacular scenes all around. The first image is looking to the southeast. Here we see a famous rock formation called Mexican Hat. In the background is the upwarped layers of sedimentary rock that have eroded quite spectacularly. Notice that the layers that sit under the Mexican Hat are parallel to the surface. The close proximity of many horizontal layers with sets of layers that are angled is what has mad this area famous among geology enthusiasts.
Below you are looking east at what is called comb ridge which is the part that looks like the zig-zag line here. These are layers or rocks that have been bent 45 degrees on their side and then eroded. This ridge heads north at least 30 miles.
The view to the northwest shows the layers of red rock that we would be seeing so much more of as we head up to Moab and then in Moab. This whole areas was once covered in the same rock but then eroded to leaving a few pillars of rock in place. This is similar to monument valley to the south. Eventually we would get up on top of those rocks and make our way north.
Below is a picture I took standing at the point overlooking the San Juan river as the Goosenecks of the San Juan River State Park. This is just an amazing sight! The thousands of layers of horizontal rock are eroded out by this winding river. I should note that we were fortunate this day as the weather was fantastic for late July. It was 95 degrees here but it could have been much hotter and mostly in the 80s as we traveled in this region.
Next we drove north on route 261. After driving across a relatively flat plain for 10 miles or so we reached the base of this long plateau and we drove up this winding dirt road to get to the top. The view was quite spectacular and the temperature noticeably cooler when we reached the top.
Rather than continuing on route 261 north we took a dirt road sound to the end of the plateau to Muley Point which overlooks the San Juan River area. We could look out over the area we had just visited from another 1000 feet higher up.
Below is the view looking toward the south from Muley Point. The road below is on a layer of rock that is more resistant to erosion and is the same rock that we were on when we were at Goosenecks of the San Juan State Park.
Off to Moab from here. More pictures to come…