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Geology  of  Southern  Utah  and  Nevada


    The Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park can be geologically related by the specific layers of rock visible in their walls. However, because of different degrees of plate elevation in these areas, a given  layer will not have the same elevation above sea level in all three parks. Taking the floor of the Grand Canyon as our base, we find an elevation of 2500 feet above sea level. The highest layer at the top of the Grand Canyon (the North Rim at 8300 feet) consists of the Kaibab limestone layer. This layer is the lowest level in Zion National Park (which is geologically younger) and has sunk to only 4000 feet above sea level. In successive layers above the Kaibab, we find the Moenkopi formation, Chinle formation, Moenave Formation, Kayenta formation, Navajo sandstone (the thickest layer in Zion), the Temple Cap formation, and the Carmel formation at the top of the canyon around 7500 feet above sea level. The Carmel formation forms the base at Bryce Canyon (geologically younger than Zion) with an elevation of 6600 feet. The addition of several more formations (layers), especially the Claron formation, brings the tops of the cliffs at Bryce to 8500 feet, only slightly higher than the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but geologically much younger. Cedar Breaks National Monument is younger still and is located at higher elevations than Bryce.

    The parks of southern Nevada are located at much lower altitudes. Most of the sandstone in Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of Fire is part of the Aztec formation. The Aztec was laid down over the Chinle formation (see Zion above). To confuse matters, much mountain building occurred over the hundreds of millions of years and older Paleozoic limestone beds now lie on top of younger Mesozoic sandstone layers in Nevada.


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