Honeycomb Holes at Capitol Reef

November 13, 2017

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Photographer: Patti Weeks 
Summary Author: Patti Weeks 
 
Capitol Reef National Park in southern Utah, although not as well known as the nearby national parks of Bryce Canyon and Zion Canyon, is equally full of beauty and wonder. It was named for the white domes of Navajo Sandstone that was thought to resemble the domes of capitol buildings. Capitol Reef lies within one of the major geological features of the park, the Waterpocket Fold, a 100 mile (160 km) long north-south, east-dipping classic monocline. The Waterpocket Fold was formed 50-70 million years ago during the Laramide Orogeny, the mountain building event that formed the Rocky Mountains. Then the formation was lifted along with the entire vast Colorado Plateau, tilted by a massive underlying fault and exposed about 15-20 million years ago. The younger side spur canyons were carved between 1 and 6 million years ago.

The top photo shows lacy honeycomb holes, also known as tafoni, in a vertical cliff wall of the Wingate Formation along Capitol Gorge, a spur canyon of the main Capitol Reef Scenic Drive. The grains of sandstone are cemented together with softer minerals, such as calcite or silica. These solution cavities are created by the weathering erosion of wind, water and ice, washing away the less resistant cementing substances. Although some of the holes may appear to be cave-like penetrations, they're only surface pockmarks.

The bottom photo is a partial view of the Waterpocket Fold, looking northwest along the Capitol Reef Scenic Drive, near the entrance of the Capitol Gorge canyon road. Photos were taken July 20, 2014.

Photo Details: Top - Camera Maker: Panasonic; Camera Model: DMC-ZS7; Focal Length: 4.1mm (35mm equivalent: 25mm); Aperture: ƒ/4.0; Exposure Time: 0.0050 s (1/200); ISO equiv: 80; Bottom - same except: Focal Length: 24.1mm (35mm equivalent: 147mm); Aperture: ƒ/4.5; Exposure Time: 0.0031 s (1/320).