Canyonlands
Spring, 1999

"We walked through the grabens on a horst with no name."


Grabens, grabens, grabens, there seem to be grabens on almost all of the terrestrial bodies that we have gotten a good look at in the solar system, and as such, we felt that we should get a close-up view of some of the nearby terrestrial grabens in southeastern Utah. Of course, there's a lot more than just grabens in Canyonlands National Park, and there's also a lot of interesting real estate on the way there: we passed through Monument Valley, and Natural Bridges National Monument on our way.

This field trip began bright and early at the LPL loading dock, and we motored through most of the day without stopping. We saw the volcanic necks in Monument Valley and the Goosenecks of the San Juan before finding a campsite just past the Valley of the Gods. Where we got hailed and rained on. The second day dawned cold and we did a little hike down to one of the bridges in National Bridges National Monument. We talked about faults and folds and learned about laccoliths. We made it all the way to the northern end of Canyonlands park and got to see Upheaval Dome. We camped just outside of the northern park boundary and managed to only get rained on that night. On day three we drove towards the southern end of the park, saw Newspaper Rock, and began our assault on Elephant Hill. All of our vehicles arrived in the Devil's kitchen campground a little scratched up, but still in good shape that night. We were treated to a beautifully clear night and heard about the geologic history of the area and the history of the parks in southeast Utah. Day four saw us making gratuitous crossings of the Silver Stairs, but we saw the Confluence of the Colorado and the Green rivers, we hiked through the grabens, and after lunch went over Elephant Hill a second time to exit the park (fortunately LPL grad students are quick learners, and it took us much less time to make the crossing than it had the day before) and begin our long journey home. Day five was a driving day, and we made it back to the Lab in DAYLIGHT, a triumph to be sure.

Table of Contents from the Field Trip Booklett | Editor's Note

Photos courtesy of Jason Barnes.


Big Chief Hurfordt and Company have hiked down to the base of one of the natural bridges.
Rachel gives her natural bridges talk.
A nice shot of one of the natural bridges.

Upheval Dome: salt dome or impact crater?

We stopped at the Grandview overlook.

We also put in a stop at Newspaper Rock.

So after Newspaper Rock we arrived at the main entrance to Canyonlands Park, had lunch, and headed for Elephant Hill. Elephant Hill serves as a barrier to keep the faint of heart out of the rugged back country. Somehow, despite plans to the contrary, one of the most inexperienced off-road drivers managed to be the first one in line up the hill.

Here you see the first vehicle encountering the beginning of the Elephant Hill climb. It may not look like it but there is a two or three foot elevation difference between the surface that the Suburban is on and the one that the figures in the background are on. We had to make a makeshift ramp out of large cobbles to get the vehicles up this one.

This is a view from near the top of the Elephant Hill ascent, Barb looks out over the scene. You can see the parking area at the base of the Hill, and the easy dirt road that we came to the Hill from, as well as some beautiful Canyonlands scenery.

The following two images are the same. The one on the right has the `road' (and I use the term loosely) highlighted in blue on it that climbs up from the nice level parking lot to the top of Elephant Hill. Looking at the pictures just doesn't seem to do it justice though.

Now, once we got to the top of Elephant Hill, we had to drive across the top of it, and then down the other side. Here is a poor mosaic of a view from the top of Elephant Hill looking down at the `road' going down into the Canyonlands backcountry and a view of some of the beautiful formations.

These next three frames show the descent of Joe Junior and the Backseat Boys down Elephant Hill. (Yes, that is the `road')

At first glance, this image may seem tame, but please notice that in front of Jason is the ground and in Jason's rearview mirror is the sky, so you have an idea of the attitude of the vehicles as we came down Elephant Hill.
This is a picture taken from the bottom of the far side of Elephant Hill looking up. You can just barely see Aileen and Rachel at the top of the hill and they are in the same place as they are in that mosaic above.

In the process of getting all those vehicles over that hill there had been a whole lot of shaking going on. Werner displays how much foam his Coke had gotten as it bounced around the bed of the truck. Werner was great at pointing things out on that trip.

Once we had gotten over Elephant Hill, we went through a narrow area and got to the Devil's Kitchen where we camped that night.

The next day saw us driving around the backcountry looking at all kinds of good stuff. Here is an excellent photo of the graben.

Driving along the graben was easy.
Driving over the horsts was a little more challenging.

Here's Barb giving her talk at the Confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers, and Jason taking a Joe-esque shot of himself and the Confluence.

And so near the end of the trip, what more can you ask for than a campfire with your friends and that your sheep is securely lashed to the roof of your vehicle. I can only hope that you can ask for a great deal more.


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Last Modified: August 4, 1999