Canyon de Chelly and the Salt River Canyon

Fall, 1998

This field trip, to some extent, retraced the 1992 trip to the Canyon de Chelly. The planetary connection for this trip was a comparison of the Canyons of Mars and Earth, although we did a lot more than talk about canyons. One of the mechanisms for canyon formation is by sapping processes, this mechanism has been invoked for several canyons on Mars, and the Canyon de Chelly, conveniently, displays many characteristics of a sapping landform.

The field trip began on the roof of the Lab where we talked about Tucson area tectonics. On our way to the Day 1 destination of the Salt River Canyon, we talked about stream terraces, pediments, mining and economic geology, fossils, and giant landslides. Day two saw us talking about the volcanic field near Show Low and the hydrology of the Little Colordao River. We stopped at the Petrified Forest National Park, and had lunch overlooking the Painted Desert. We saw the Hopi Buttes, talked about sapping in the Canyon de Chelly, and talked about the Navajo and Hopi around the fire that night. We hiked down to the White House ruins and learned about the Anasazi, we also learned about the geology of the general area around the Canyon De Chelly and about valley networks in the Arctic and their application to Mars. That afternoon on our way back to Tucson, we talked about washboards and dinosaur footprints.

Photos courtesy of Andy Rivkin and Jason Barnes.