Colorado Plateau Four Corners

December 27, 2008

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Photographer: Thomas McGuire, Textbook Author/Educator
Summary Author: Thomas McGuire

Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah are the only four states of the United States that meet at a single point. This random geographic feature is a remote location within the Navajo Indian Reservation on the vast Colorado Plateau. The photo above was taken in October of 2005 along U.S. Route 160, about 2 miles (3 km) east of the Four Corners. The white spots in the mid-distance are Native Americans homes.

Notice the stepped appearance of the landscape. Large areas of the Colorado Plateau, like many plateaus, are underlain by flat-lying layers of sedimentary rock. The harder layers generally form escarpments, and the weaker layers form terraces. In this arid land, where summer monsoon rains can be torrential, there are few plants to hold the soil. The desert southwest actually has the fastest regional rates of denudation in the United States. Contrast this scene with the Allegheny Plateau region of New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, where a more humid climate results in more rounded landforms.