Smoky Mountain in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

January 03, 2014

Smoky Mountain2

Photographer: David Rankin
Summary Author: David Rankin

High atop sandstone cliffs in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument of southern Utah wide fissures release toxic gasses into the air on Smoky Mountain. The activity leading to these discharges often begins far below the surface. Here, coal deposits ignited thousands of years ago can continue to smolder, liberating energy stored for over 80 million years. The formation on top of the coal is Cretaceous age rock. It's part of the Straight Cliffs Formation and about 100 million years younger than the Navajo Sandstone. The Straight Cliffs represent fluctuating beach/ocean deposits and delta deposits from the receding Western Interior Seaway. Large amounts of coal as well as Cretaceous age dinosaurs are widespread here. Smoky Mountain is faintly reminiscent of Yellowstone National Park, but it's fueled by coal rather than by volcanic processes. Photo taken on December 5, 2013.

Photo Details: Canon 6D camera; 14 mm f/2.8 lens.