The Virgin River collects water from a large watershed and flows south through Zion Canyon. This whole area is layer upon layer of sand stone and other types of sedimentary rock laid down over millions of years in shallow seas that covered this area. Geologic forces have lifted the entire Colorado Plateau over even more millions of years, folding, bending and breaking the layers as they rose. And all during this time water flowed, winter came and turned to summer, ice formed and pushed apart layers of rock, the summer heat caused rocks to split as well and the wind turned rocks into sand. But it was the flowing water that carved its way down through the lifting layers. The sides of the canyons would split off and fall down into pieces that the river would just grind up over time.
In this area huge vertical cliff faces are possible because water would seep into vertical cracks in the rock, the freezing and thawing would make the cracks bigger and more water would seep in and then when there was enough water and ice in the crack the entire face would shear off leaving a vertical face.
We followed the Virgin River up the canyon on the shuttle bus and then set off on a 2 mile hike to the narrows.
Most of this popular trail is paved or small gravel. There are a few steep places. It just seems to lead into a cliff.
Some of the gravel is not so small. While this rock has been here for a very long time, I am sure, neither of us wanted to linger under it for long. In high water periods many sections of this trail are under water.
The vertical faces are everywhere and very close.
Water seeps down into the rock above until it hits a harder layer and then flows out through the side of the cliff face as a waterfall. In each of these locations, new side canyons begin. In another million years maybe we could walk up this new canyon.
And in many shady side walls water would just ooze or bubble out, dribbling down the face and form small pools. The different colors are all the result of minerals being disolved by the water and then deposited on the face of the rock as the water flows down.
And everywhere there is water there are plants that are specially suited to the damp environment. Most of these plants grow only in these shady, wet nooks in Zion. They just seem to grow right out of the rocks and that is exactly what they do. There are little tiny tadpoles in the pools and very tiny frogs that only live here. There were deer tracks here as well, a good source of water for them.
And finally there is no more trail. And indeed the river continues into the mountain. At this time the water level and flow rates were too high to go further (and the water temperature was about 40°) but later in the season you can continue on up into the narrows until it is just a narrow slit in the mountain, close enough to touch both sides. They are very cautious of weather in the watershed though because even a small rainfall can create a flash flood in the narrows.
I wish these were my photos but they are not. They give you a good idea of what the narrows looks like when you can walk upstream.
If you are a photographer you can understand how important light is to making a picture stand out. And in many places in Zion being patient for the best light is critical.
One thing we are always amazed by in our National Parks is the International attraction they have. And no different here. Every imaginable language can be heard except Klingon. And many bring their own campers with them.
This is an Italian truck that likely started as something else and was converted into a camper.
And these two we spied in the parking lot.
And all sorts of Mercedes Benz vans converted into heavy duty 4×4 off road campers. Most of there were from California, sort of off in their own world anyway.
We are always pleased to see all of the different examples of camping. From someone on a bicycle, to young folks in a tent like we started out doing, to families tenting and in small trailers and then many seeming to find something more suited to their needs as they get older or families get bigger and then smaller. We see every example. All ages. All abilities. There is so much to see and experience. Just figure out a way and do it.
Roger and Susan
One thought on “Zion National Park, UT. March 2017. Part 2”
Another great blog!