Tag Archives: geology

03-08-20 – Gold Butte National Monument


Gold Butte National Monument is a United States national monument located in Clark County, Nevada, northeast of Las Vegas and south of Mesquite and Bunkerville. The monument protects nearly 300,000 acres of desert landscapes featuring a wide array of natural and cultural resources, including rock art, sandstone towers, and important wildlife habitat for species including the Mojave Desert tortoise (a threatened species), bighorn sheep, and mountain lion. The area also protects historic ranching and mining sites such as the ghost town of Gold Butte, although little but mine openings, cement foundations, and a few pieces of rusting equipment remains. The monument is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The monument consists of 296,937 acres (120,166 ha). The Gold Butte National Monument fills a gap between Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, creating a continuous swath of conserved land and establishing a wildlife corridor. Significant wildlife within the borders of the park include Mojave Desert tortoise (a threatened species), bighorn sheep, and mountain lion, as well as Gambel’s quail and chukar partridge. Important cultural and natural resources within the monument include rock art and sandstone formations. Within the park, “weather-chiseled red sandstone is incised with ancient rock art, and the remains of rock shelters and hearths, agave roasting pits and projectile points” may be found.

Source: Wikipedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Butte_National_Monument

Little Finland (also known as Hobgoblin’s Playground and Devil’s Fire) is a scenic red rock area, located in a remote section of Clark County, Nevada south of Mesquite, known for its red rock scenery and strangely-shaped, delicate rock formations. The landscape is similar to Valley of Fire State Park, which is about 20 miles (32 km) to the west, across Lake Mead. The rock formations are composed of red Aztec Sandstone, fossil sand dunes. Many of the features are small erosional fins, hence the name.

Little Finland is accessible via the BLM Gold Butte Backcountry Byway, which also goes through the historic mining town of Gold Butte, Nevada, established in 1908. Other nearby attractions include Whitney Pockets, another scenic red rock area with petroglyphs, and the Devils Throat, a sinkhole. The Gold Butte region is public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management that contains seven BLM-designated Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). Since December 2016, Little Finland and the surrounding area have additional federal protection within Gold Butte National Monument.

Two BLM wilderness areas are nearby. The Lime Canyon Wilderness borders Little Finland and the west side of the Gold Butte Byway loop. The Jumbo Springs Wilderness is south of the Gold Butte townsite.

Source: Wikipedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Finland

03-07-20 – Castle Mountains National Monument


Castle Mountains National Monument is a U.S. National Monument located in the eastern Mojave Desert and northeastern San Bernardino County, in the state of California. The park protects 20,920 acres, located between the interstates I−15 and I−40, and northwest of the Colorado River.

The national monument protects a section of the Castle Mountains, a range located in San Bernardino County and Clark County, Nevada. The range lies south and east of the New York Mountains, southwest of Searchlight and west of Cal-Nev-Ari, Nevada. The range lies at the northeastern end of Lanfair Valley and reaches 5,543 feet (1,690 m) in elevation at the summit of Hart Peak and 5580 ft at Linder Peak. The mountains lie in a southwest-northeasterly direction. The Piute Range lies to the southeast. Castle Mountains National Monument is surrounded on three sides by the NPS Mojave National Preserve.

It surrounds the Castle Mountain Mine Area, an open pit gold mine in the southern Castle Mountains owned by Canadian NewCastle Gold Ltd., who can excavate nearly 10 million tons of ore through 2025, though due to low gold prices mining has been suspended since 2001. The national monument proclamation states that after any such mining and reclamation are completed, or after 10 years if no mining occurs, the Federal land in the 8,340 acre Castle Mountain Mine Area is to be transferred to the National Park Service.

Source: Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Mountains_National_Monument

02-23-20 – Death Valley National Park


Death Valley National Park is an American national park that straddles the California–Nevada border, east of the Sierra Nevada. The park boundaries include Death Valley, the northern section of Panamint Valley, the southern section of Eureka Valley, and most of Saline Valley. The park occupies an interface zone between the arid Great Basin and Mojave deserts, protecting the northwest corner of the Mojave Desert and its diverse environment of salt-flats, sand dunes, badlands, valleys, canyons, and mountains. Death Valley is the largest national park in the contiguous United States, and the hottest, driest and lowest of all the national parks in the United States. The second-lowest point in the Western Hemisphere is in Badwater Basin, which is 282 feet (86 m) below sea level. Approximately 91% of the park is a designated wilderness area. The park is home to many species of plants and animals that have adapted to this harsh desert environment. Some examples include creosote bush, bighorn sheep, coyote, and the Death Valley pupfish, a survivor from much wetter times. UNESCO included Death Valley as the principal feature of its Mojave and Colorado Deserts Biosphere Reserve in 1984.

A series of Native American groups inhabited the area from as early as 7000 BC, most recently the Timbisha around 1000 AD who migrated between winter camps in the valleys and summer grounds in the mountains. A group of European Americans, trapped in the valley in 1849 while looking for a shortcut to the gold fields of California, gave the valley its name, even though only one of their group died there. Several short-lived boom towns sprang up during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to mine gold and silver. The only long-term profitable ore to be mined was borax, which was transported out of the valley with twenty-mule teams. The valley later became the subject of books, radio programs, television series, and movies. Tourism expanded in the 1920s when resorts were built around Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek. Death Valley National Monument was declared in 1933 and the park was substantially expanded and became a national park in 1994.

The natural environment of the area has been shaped largely by its geology. The valley is actually a graben with the oldest rocks being extensively metamorphosed and at least 1.7 billion years old. Ancient, warm, shallow seas deposited marine sediments until rifting opened the Pacific Ocean. Additional sedimentation occurred until a subduction zone formed off the coast. The subduction uplifted the region out of the sea and created a line of volcanoes. Later the crust started to pull apart, creating the current Basin and Range landform. Valleys filled with sediment and, during the wet times of glacial periods, with lakes, such as Lake Manly.

Source: Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_Valley_National_Park

02-23-20 – Trona Pinnacles


The Trona Pinnacles are an unusual geological feature in the California Desert National Conservation Area. The landscape consists of more than 500 tufa spires (porous rock formed as a deposit when springs interact with other bodies of water), some as high as 140 feet (43 m), rising from the bed of the Searles Lake (dry) basin. The pinnacles vary in size and shape from short and squat to tall and thin, and are composed primarily of calcium carbonate (tufa). They now sit isolated and slowly crumbling away near the south end of the valley, surrounded by many square miles of flat, dried mud and with stark mountain ranges at either side.

During the Pleistocene, massive runoff spilled from the Sierra Nevada into a chain of inland seas. The system of interconnected lakes stretched from Mono Lake to Death Valley and included Searles Lake. Deep beneath Searles Lake, calcium-rich groundwater and alkaline lake water combined to grow tufa formations. Similar (modern) formations can be found today at Mono Lake to the north. Known as tufa pinnacles, these strange shapes formed underwater 10,000 to 100,000 years ago. The pinnacles did not all form at the same time. They are divided by age and elevation into three groups. The groups are dubbed the northern, middle, and southern groups because they formed during three ice ages.

The northern group is the youngest at 11,000 to 25,000 years old. These are the best examples of what are known as tufa towers. The northern group also include shapes called tombstones, ridges and cones. The small middle group claims only 100 spires, but boasts the tallest “tower”, rising 140 feet (43 m). The southern group, includes 200 tufa formations aged 32,000 to 100,000 years old.

The Pinnacles are recognizable in more than a dozen hit movies. Over thirty film projects a year are shot among the tufa pinnacles, including backdrops for car commercials and sci-fi movies and television series such as Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Disney’s Dinosaur, The Gate II: Trespassers, Lost in Space, and Planet of the Apes. The music video for Lady Gaga’s 2020 single “Stupid Love” was also filmed here.

Source: Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trona_Pinnacles

12-01-19 – Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (shortened to Glen Canyon NRA or GCNRA) is a recreation and conservation unit of the United States National Park Service that encompasses the area around Lake Powell and lower Cataract Canyon in Utah and Arizona, covering 1,254,429 acres (5,076.49 km2) of mostly rugged high desert terrain. The recreation area is named for Glen Canyon, which was flooded by the Glen Canyon Dam, completed in 1966, and is now mostly submerged beneath the waters of Lake Powell.

Glen Canyon NRA borders Capitol Reef National Park and Canyonlands National Park on the north, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on the west, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and the northeasternmost reaches of Grand Canyon National Park on the southwest, and the Navajo Nation on the southeast. The southwestern end of Glen Canyon NRA in Arizona can be accessed via U.S. Route 89 and State Route 98. State Route 95 and State Route 276 lead to the northeastern end of the recreation area in Utah.

Glen Canyon NRA was established in 1972 “to provide for public use and enjoyment and to preserve the area’s scientific, historic, and scenic features.” The stated purpose of Glen Canyon NRA is for recreation as well as preservation (whereas a national park may carry more emphasis on natural preservation). As such, the area has been developed for access to Lake Powell via five marinas, four public campgrounds, two small airports, and numerous houseboat rental concessions.

The geology of the area is dominated by the Glen Canyon Group, consisting of the Navajo Sandstone, Kayenta Formation, and Wingate Sandstone. The entire stratigraphic section includes rocks dating from the Cretaceous to Pennsylvanian periods.

Source: Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glen_Canyon_National_Recreation_Area

11-30-19 – Rainbow Bridge National Monument


Rainbow Bridge is made from sandstone originally deposited by wind as sand dunes, during the end of the Triassic and the Jurassic periods. Extreme fluctuations in climate during the Triassic and Jurassic periods—the region was alternately a sea and desert on par with the Sahara—produced layers of sandstone with different levels of hardness. By the end of the Jurassic, the sea returned to cover these layers of sandstone and compressed them so tightly that they would persist until the present day.

As Bridge Creek flowed toward the growing Colorado River during the last ice age, it carved first through softer rocks and veered away from the harder Triassic and Jurassic sandstones, eventually creating a wide hairpin bend that flowed around a solid “fin” of sandstone that would become Rainbow Bridge. The previous course of the creek is still visible above the bridge. Water flows back on itself at bends and wide spots, creating swirling eddies along the banks. As the creek flowed around Rainbow Bridge fin, these abrasive eddies formed on both the upstream and downstream sides and cut circular alcoves in the rock wall. The sediment in the creek eventually scoured the softer layers of sandstone away, leaving the harder layers behind.

Source: Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_Bridge_National_Monument

11-29-19 – Valley of the Gods


The Valley of the Gods is a scenic sandstone valley near Mexican Hat in San Juan County, southeastern Utah, United States. Formerly part of Bears Ears National Monument, Valley of the Gods is located north of Monument Valley across the San Juan River and has rock formations similar to those in Monument Valley with tall, reddish brown mesas, buttes, towers and mushroom rocks—remnants of an ancient landscape.

The Valley of the Gods may be toured via a 17-mile (27 km) gravel road (San Juan County Road 242) that winds around the formations. The road is rather steep and bumpy in parts but is passable by non-four-wheel drive vehicles in dry weather. The western end joins Utah State Route 261 shortly before its 1,200-foot (370 m) ascent up Cedar Mesa at Moki Dugway, while the eastern end starts nine miles (14 km) from the town of Mexican Hat along U.S. Route 163 and heads north, initially crossing flat, open land and following the course of Lime Creek, a seasonal wash, before turning west toward the buttes and pinnacles. In addition to the gravel road, the area is also crisscrossed by off-road dirt trails.

The valley has been used as the backdrop for western movies, commercials and television shows including two episodes of the BBC science fiction show Doctor Who: “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon”, the second of which includes an explicit on-screen reference to the filming location. The 1984-1987 CBS TV show Airwolf is often mistakenly identified as being filmed in Valley of the Gods due to an in-episode mention but was filmed in Monument Valley

Source: Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valley_of_the_Gods

11-28-19 – Grand Staircase Escalante


The monument stretches from the towns of Big Water, Glendale, and Kanab, Utah in the southwest, to the towns of Escalante and Boulder in the northeast. Originally encompassing 1,880,461 acres (7,610 km2), the monument was slightly larger in area than the state of Delaware. After a reduction ordered by presidential proclamation in December 2017, the monument now encompasses 1,003,863 acres (4,062 km2).

The western part of the monument is dominated by the Paunsaugunt Plateau and the Paria River, and is adjacent to Bryce Canyon National Park. This section shows the geologic progression of the Grand Staircase. Features include the slot canyons of Bull Valley Gorge, Willis Creek, and Lick Wash which are accessed from Skutumpah Road.

The center section is dominated by a single long ridge, called the Kaiparowits Plateau from the west, and Fifty-Mile Mountain when viewed from the east. Fifty-Mile Mountain stretches southeast from the town of Escalante to the Colorado River in Glen Canyon. The eastern face of the mountain is a 2,200 ft (670 m) escarpment. The western side (the Kaiparowits Plateau) is a shallow slope descending to the south and west.

East of Fifty-Mile Mountain are the Canyons of the Escalante. The monument is bounded by Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on the east and south. The popular hiking, backpacking and canyoneering areas include Calf Creek Falls off Utah Scenic Byway 12, and Zebra Canyon, Harris Wash, and the Devils Garden. The latter areas are accessed via the Hole-in-the-Rock Road which extends southeast from Escalante, near the base of Fifty-Mile Mountain. The Dry Fork Slots of Coyote Gulch and lower Coyote Gulch are also located off the Hole-in-the-Rock Road.

Source: Wikipedia

11-24-19 – Sand to Snow and Joshua Tree


I went for a wander intending to visit Sand To Snow National Monument, but found myself in a hike-in only situation controlled by The Wildlands Conservancy, and I wasn’t geared for a long hike that day, so I spent some time in The Wildlands Conservancy before setting off to the far more accessible Joshua Tree National Park.

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Sand to Snow National Monument is a U.S. National Monument located in San Bernardino County and into northern Riverside County, Southern California. It protects diverse montane and desert habitats of the San Bernardino Mountains, southern Mojave Desert, and northwestern Colorado Desert. The national monument protects a total of 154,000 acres (62,000 ha), with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) managing 83,000 acres (34,000 ha) acres, and the USFS−San Bernardino National Forest managing 71,000 acres (29,000 ha). It extends from around 1,000 feet (300 m) on the Coachella Valley desert floor up to over 11,000 feet (3,400 m) in the San Bernardino Mountains. Over 100,000 acres (40,000 ha) of the national monument are within the San Gorgonio Wilderness area, which was designated by Congress in 1964. An eastern border in the Little San Bernardino Mountains abuts Joshua Tree National Park. A separate section expands the Bighorn Mountain Wilderness area to the northeast. 30 miles (48 km) of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail pass through the monument. The headwaters of the Santa Ana River, Whitewater River, Morongo Creek, and San Gorgonio River are within it. The park protects a significant wildlife corridor and landscape linkage between the San Bernardino National Forest/San Gorgonio Wilderness area, Joshua Tree National Park, and Bighorn Mountain Wilderness area.

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Joshua Tree National Park is an American national park in southeastern California, east of Los Angeles and San Bernardino, near Palm Springs. The park is named for the Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) native to the Mojave Desert. Originally declared a national monument in 1936, Joshua Tree was redesignated as a national park in 1994 when the U.S. Congress passed the California Desert Protection Act. Encompassing a total of 790,636 acres (1,235.4 sq mi; 3,199.6 km2)—an area slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island—the park includes 429,690 acres (671.4 sq mi; 1,738.9 km2) of designated wilderness. Straddling the border between San Bernardino County and Riverside County, the park includes parts of two deserts, each an ecosystem whose characteristics are determined primarily by elevation: the higher Mojave Desert and the lower Colorado Desert. The Little San Bernardino Mountains traverse the southwest edge of the park.

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Source: Wikipedia

09-17-19 – Timpanagos Cave National Monument


Timpanogos Cave National Monument is a United States National Monument protecting the Timpanogos Cave Historic District and a cave system on Mount Timpanogos in the Wasatch Mountains in American Fork Canyon near American Fork, Utah, in the United States. The site is managed by the National Park Service. The 1.5-mile (2.4 km) trail to the cave is steep, gaining close to 1,000 feet (300 m), but paved and fairly wide, making the caves accessible to most. The three caves of the system, one of which is specifically called Timpanogos Cave, are only viewable on guided tours when the monument is open, usually from May through September depending on snow conditions and funding. There is the standard tour going through the cave system, and an Introduction to Caving tour which teaches Leave No Trace caving and goes further into Hansen Cave.

The three caves of the Monument that are tourable are: Hansen Cave, Middle Cave, and Timpanogos Cave. The three caves are connected by manmade tunnels blasted in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration . The average temperature in the caves is 46 degrees Fahrenheit. Many colorful cave features or speleothems can be seen. Among the most interesting are the helictites, which are hollowed, twisted, spiraling straws of deposited calcite or aragonite. They are formed when water travels through the tube and then evaporates, leaving a trace mineral deposit at the end. Other speleothems found in the cave include: cave bacon, cave columns, flowstone, cave popcorn, cave drapery, stalactites and stalagmites.