Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mega road trip - Day 5

Grand Junction, CO to Moab, UT.  A relatively short drive 2 1/2 hours but we spent half the day at Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction and drove UT-128 - the Colorado Scenic Byway - a beautiful road which follows the Colorado River to Utah and is almost like driving through the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Colorado National Monument is along the edge of the Uncompahgre Plateau with a 20+ mile road that follows cliff edges and winds around canyons carved into the edge of that plateau.  Here's a view down one of the canyons from Rim Rock Drive.

The primary rock formations seen from the road are shown below.

The bottom floor of the canyons, not well seen although you can spot a small canyon forming it in the first picture above, is the Black Canyon Group of metamorphic and igneous rocks - schists and gneisses shot through with veins of granite pegmatite formed 1.7 billion years ago by an ancient collision and mountain building event.  This dark colored rock is the same stuff seen in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park 90 miles away.

Above that, and forming the slopes visible at the base of the cliffs, is the bright red Chinle Formation - a Late Triassic rock unit representing stream and floodplain deposits.  The colorful Chinle is most famously seen in Arizona's Painted Desert where it preserves fossilized wood from Petrified Forest National Park.

The high cliffs are formed from the Wingate Formation. A tan, cross-bedded sandstone representing wind-blown sand dunes straddling the Triassic and Jurassic Periods of geologic time.  This unit is a common cliff-former in the Colorado Plateau Region.

Above the Wingate is a lighter-colored cliff-forming unit called the Kayenta Formation.  It's a sandstone with some siltstone and shale layers and represents some stream and floodplain deposits again.  The hills in the distance are the Morrison Formation, a complex series of siltstones, sandstones, and mudstones representing streams, swamps, and floodplains of the Jurassic and world-famous for its dinosaur fossils.

We did do one hike at the Monument with the kids to a place called Devil's Kitchen. 

Great little hike up to a an area where the kids could see arroyos, balanced rocks, climb around on some slickrock, and see lizards like the guy below.

It was a hot day, 100+ degrees (with the forecast to continue with unseasonably high temperatures during our several day stay in Moab) so our other hikes were shorter.

A final picture along UT-128 - the Colorado Scenic Byway.

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