Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Lake Powell
Jun 18, 2014
It was a good thing that we waited in Las Vegas an extra day so that the winds could die down a little bit. The ride through the Virgin River Gorge was ….......hmmmmm......not bad. At least that is what I told our friends who were a day behind us and wanted to know the road conditions. When they got into the campground at Zion they said, “What do you mean by not bad! It was white knuckles all the way through the gorge!”. Maybe I should have said that it was “sporty”. It was one lane with concrete barriers on either side in the construction zones and the wind was kind of unpredictable, but, it wasn't bad. At least the barriers gave you something to bounce off of. Other than that, the gorge was pretty spectacular. I have included a couple of pictures that Beverly was able to take from the passenger seat.
Zion is an interesting park to visit. We are visiting some of the parks that are located within the Colorado Plateau which is a huge area that extends into parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. At one time, Zion was a flat desert wasteland. That was over 200 million years go. The winds blew and created huge, no, ginormous sand dunes. The weight of the dunes crushed the poor little sand pebbles together and then the climate changed and brought rain and minerals and it cemented it all together to form sandstone.
About 80 million years ago, the continent of North America that we know today was actually two continents separated by an interior ocean waterway that ran from north to south as there was no polar ice cap. Those two continents were known as Laramidia (western) and Appalachia (eastern). I have attached a copy of a what it looked like from a National Geographic article. Laramidia was similar to what you would find in Louisiana today.
The ocean receded, the continental plates shifted and raised the Colorado Plateau up over 10,000 feet creating, in part the Rocky Mountains and giving birth to the Colorado River and many lesser rivers. One of those is the Virgin River which cut through the sandstone dunes to create Zion (place of refuge). Wow, all of this is pretty dramatic, isn't it? Anyhow, the main park road runs into a canyon formed by the Virgin River and follows the river bed for about 13 miles to a point where the canyon narrows to a slot canyon. Since there are now so many visitors to Zion, you have to take shuttle buses from the main visitor center into the park. At the narrows end of the canyon, there is a trail that runs for another mile back into the slot canyon. At the trail end, you can hike along the river bank and in the river. We stopped at the end of the paved trail. I have included a couple of pictures, but, it is really hard to capture the essence of the canyons and the beauty of the shear walled cliffs that surround you in the canyon.
When we were near Glen Canyon Dam (at Lake Powell), we stopped at a Bureau of Land Management visitors center. We did not expect to find much. However, we were surprised to see actual dinosaur bones. One set of bones showed that a dinosaur had been bitten and killed by another dinosaur. Bones of an alligator that was 40 feet long have been discovered in the area. When the dinosaurs died or were killed, some ended up in the swamp silt and the bones were fossilized by the minerals in the water. The area where they are finding the fossils is in the Grand Staircase Monument.
While at the Lake Powell Resort, we met a couple in their mid 60's who it turned out happened to be from Manchester, England. They seemed like such an unassuming couple and then they told us that they had rented a Harley in Las Vegas and were doing a 2,000 mile tour of the area. They had already been in Monument Valley and were headed toward Zion. Turns out that these people have been all over the world. You never know who you are going to run into on trips like this.
We also visited Bryce Canyon National Park. This park is different in that you view it from the rim of the canyon rather than from the floor as with Zion. Also, the walls in this canyon are limestone rather than Sandstone so the “carvings” are quite different. The highest viewing point in the park is 9115 feet and from there it seems like you can see forever. Well, probably about 100 miles or so. We could see parts of the Grand Staircase and what appeared to be the north rim of the Grand Canyon. I have included a few pictures to include some HooDoos of the canyon.
We are moving on from here to Moab, Utah to see the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.
Unfortunately for our friends from Atlanta, the turbo charger on their bus decided to go south so they will have to spend several days in St. George, Utah having repairs done. We will meet up with them again at Yellowstone.
The May, 2014 issue of National Geographic has an article about the dinosaurs of Laramidia, if anyone is interested.
Zion River RV Resort
Zion National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
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