Glendale, Side Trip to Kodachrome Basin State Park and Red Canyon
10 Sep 2010
|Today we opted to do the trek via the same route we took when we were going to attempt to see Grosvenor’s Arch when we had the rental car and then were so disappointed we forgot to drive a bit further to see Kodachrome Basin State Park due east as the crow flies from Bryce Canyon National Park.
Geologists believe Kodachrome Basin State Park (GBSP) was once similar to Yellowstone National Park with hot springs and geysers which eventually filled up with sediment and solidified. Through time, the Entrada sandstone surrounding the solidified geysers eroded, leaving the large sand pipes. It is a spectacle of towering sandstone chimneys, changing in color and shadow as the day progresses. This color and contrast prompted the National Geographic Society in 1949, with the consent of the Kodak Film Corporation to name the park Kodachrome.
A basin refers to entire areas of land that drain rainfall and snowmelt downhill into a body of water. The cliffs and mesas around the park act as a great funnel to collect all water within the basin and channel into washes and streams which feed into the nearby Paria River. The Kodachrome is a small basin covering a very tiny area. Eventually the Paria and all its tributaries flow into the mighty Colorado River – hey, what can you say, it has to start somewhere, right?
There are nearly 70 monolithic spires, ranging from six to 170 feet in height jutting up from the valley floor or protruding from the sandstone. These rock pillars occur nowhere else in the world. However, when we were in the ranger’s station I mentioned this little tidbit, the ranger shared he had been told by a geologist visiting the Park that similar pillars have been found within the North Sea, off the coast of Europe - but this certainly isn’t going to be anything we’ll get to see! But he pointed out, it definitely supports the theory that this whole area was under water millions of years ago.
Evidence recorded in the rock layers within the park indicate this area was seismically active throughout most of it geologic history. Earthquakes have provided the force necessary to cause coarse, water-saturated sediments to scour pathways through the overlying rock layers. Then they were filled and eventually re-cemented and became harder than the surrounding rock. Over time, erosion has removed the softer layers, revealing the pipes. But, a second theory explains the pipes as remnants of ancient springs – the springs became choked with sediments, which eventually cemented together and became more erosion-resistant than the surround rock. And unbelievably, we read there is even a new theory that proposes the pipes were formed from water-saturated pockets buried under layers of other sediments over a period of several million years. Pressure from the overlying sediments forced the wet slurry upwards. The rising slurry scoured pathways through the overlying rock eventually cementing into hard rock – erosion stripped away the softer rock layers revealing the landscape you’ll see in the pictures.
Regardless of which theory is accurate, it was an interesting park to see – BUT, would NOT rank up there as top on our hit parade of all the parks we have visited here in Utah. It wasn’t all that big and many of these “pipes” were seen better in the overviews in the ranger station than they were as we drove through the two sections of the Park – one on a dirt road out to Chimney Rock, and then is on a paved two mile drive through the rest of the Park. As a result of it not being a very large Park, we probably weren’t there for much more than an hour.
We left the Park the same route we took to reach it, stopped and took a picture for Rich and Bridget, our New Zealand friends we met on our Durango Train trip back when staying in Durango. So, Rich and Bridget, am sure you will recognize why we took this with you in mind – but also that snapshot of Americana!
Highway 12 is listed as one of Utah’s Scenic Byways and for good reason. Our first introduction to this highway was when returning from Capitol Reef (see the map I posted showing the locations around this area of Southern Utah) and you may recall the scary drive through the Hog’s Back with the 16% grade downhill and no guard rails. We also have driven on this route to get to Bryce Canyon, to Kodachrome Basin State Park, to Devil’s Rock Garden, to Grosvenor Arch – and each time we have had the fun of driving through the beautiful and very well named “Red Canyon”. It is not a part of Bryce Canyon NP, but is located in Dixie National Forest a few miles west of the NP; has several hiking trails, ATV routes, bike paths as well as campgrounds to keep anyone busy. I opted to include this along with the KBSP to keep it separate from Bryce Canyon – might be too much “red rock overload”!
I took this from the plaque located by the second tunnel we drove through and hope you find it as interesting as we did:
“On June 1, 1925, a 315-car caravan, led by Governor George Dern, arrived at the Red Canyon to celebrate the opening of Utah National Park (later renamed Bryce Canyon National Park). A flower-strewn gate closed the entrance to the second tunnel and a banner proclaimed “Welcome to Utah’s Fairyland” and children were dressed as fairies and elves tied ribbons and long streamers on the front bumper of the governor’s car. When the governor pronounced his “belief in fairies”, two young elves opened the gates, while a band, perched atop the tunnel began to play. Dancing fairies pulled on the streamers (and men pushed from behind) to draw the car through the tunnel. Ever since that momentous occasion, the Red Canyon tunnels have served as the magical entrance to Red and Bryce Canyons.” Wouldn’t that have been a sight to witness?
Hope you continue to enjoy our exploration of beautiful Southern Utah.
Till the next time . . .