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THE COLORADO PLATEAU

june 2002

Please note:
This gallery has 10 sub-galleries.
To go directly to the first gallery click on "ZION NATIONAL PARK"

The Colorado Plateau province is a huge area filled with tablelands divided by rivers, canyons and faults. It covers the region of western Colorado, southeastern and southern Utah, northern Arizona and northern New Mexico.

Colorado Plateau map

Hundreds of million of years ago, seas alternately inundated and receded from this area, accumulating large quantities of sediment. Many layers of sandstone, silt stone, shale and limestone were formed, in some places, several kilometres thick. Gradually they sank under their own weight until heat and pressure hardened them into rock. With a violent uplift, the Rocky Mountains were formed forty to eighty million years ago. Rainfall rose resulting in the creation of many rivers which, in turn, contributed to forming sediment rich in minerals. Again, about five to ten million years ago, the entire western United States began to rise as a result of tectonic compressional stress. Some portions rose as much as 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) above sea level. Once the Colorado Plateau had risen more than 1.5 kilometres (1 mile), rivers ran faster, carving out the million-year-old rock. Today the plateau continues to rise gently and wind, frost, and mostly water are the primary sculpting force for most of the unusual shapes seen in various parts of the many national parks in the area. The climate in the region is characterized by cold winters and hot summer days with cool nights. Average annual precipitation is about 510 mm (20 inches) and some parts of the plateau receive less then 260 mm (10 inches). Summer rains are actually thunderstorms; 'ordinary' rain takes place in winter. The vegetation in low-lying rocky areas consists of shrubs like saltbush and greasewood. Much of the plateau is interspersed with pynion pine, several species of juniper, grasses, herbs and shrubs like sagebrush. Forests of ponderosa pine, douglas fir, lodge pole pine and aspen dominate the higher elevation. The Anazazi were the first people to inhabit this area. Apparently they were forced to leave about 800 years ago when the area suffered a severe draught. Several other tribes of native Americans replaced them. In the mid-1800's the Mormons arrived and settled in the southern part of Utah. They grew crops, planted fruit trees and raised livestock. Timber-harvesting, excessive grazing and introduction of many exotic plants have changed the landscape of the plateau. In addition there are many abandoned mines, remnants of the intense search for gold, silver and other precious minerals in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Finally the governement, recognizing the geological importance of the plateau and wishing to protect this magnificient landscape, designated the most important areas as national parks and monuments. The Colorado Plateau province is a huge area filled with tablelands divided by rivers, canyons and faults. It covers the region of western Colorado, southeastern and southern Utah, northern Arizona and northern New Mexico.

The galleries are shown in the order I visited the parks. To start viewing them, click on "ZION NATIONAL PARK" .... and have fun!