Snow Canyon State Park

January 16, 2018

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Photographer: Patti Weeks 
Summary Author: Patti Weeks 

Although only 11.56 square miles (30 square km), Snow Canyon State Park, near Ivins and St. George in southern Utah, reveals a majestic broad valley, massive cliffs and significant volcanic activity from our ancient geologic past.

The white and red rocks, shown in the first photo, are both of the Jurassic Navajo Sandstone Formation, created about 183 million years ago by ancient sand dunes that were up to 2,500 feet thick (762 m). The familiar reddish-orange color, associated with much of southern Utah, in the older lower region of the Navajo Sandstone is due to a higher percentage of sodium, aluminum, iron and manganese than in the younger upper white portion.

The jagged brownish-black rocks in the foreground are igneous basalt of the Santa Clara Flow. There were three volcanic flows that affected Snow Canyon, dating as far back as 3 million years ago. This youngest flow is estimated to have occurred about 10,000 to 20,000 years ago.

While many parts of the Navajo Sandstone show the characteristic wind-sculpted, cross-bedded appearance of an eolian environment (bottom of the second photo), portions of the formation appear to be jumbled (top of the second photo), possibly due to the movement of sands, salt flows around desert lakes, escaping gases and/or disturbances of earthquakes during its formation.

Snow Canyon, designated as a State Park in 1958, is named after early Mormon leaders Lorenzo and Erastus Snow. Long before their time, the first human inhabitants were the native Anasazi Puebloans, followed by the Paiute Indians. Photos were taken January 26, 2016.

Photo Details: Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS7 camera. Top photo: 22.5 mm focal length; f/5 aperture;  1/400 exposure time; ISO equivalent 80. Bottom photo same as top except 25.9 mm focal length and 1/500 exposure time.