Providence Canyon, Georgia

August 08, 2019

Canyon 4 & 5 overlook_smaller filesize

August 2019 Viewer's ChoicePhotographer: Amy Stander 
Summary Author: Amy Stander 

Providence Canyon is known as “Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon.” The canyons were formed by erosion due to poor soil conservation and farming practices in the 1800s and they’re still expanding even today. In recent years a church was moved to prevent it from being swallowed by headward (upslope) erosion. These canyons showcase several geologic layers within the Coastal Plain sediments that are typical of southern Georgia, including the Providence Formation and Clayton Formation.

The Providence Formation (Cretaceous Period in age) is composed of sand and clay, including white kaolin clay lenses, and cross-bedding in some of the sand layers. The Clayton Formation (Tertiary Period in age) is red-orange, iron-rich, sandy clay, and caps the top of the canyon. Between the two formations is an unconformity, or gap in geologic time formed by erosion as sea level changed.

These photos were taken overlooking Canyons 4 and 5. They were snapped on the same day (March 13, 2019); top image at 8:15 a.m. as the Sun was still rising and shining through clouds and the bottom at 1:10 p.m. in full sun. In the morning light, the reds in the canyon sediments to appear more vibrant because blue light is scattered more near sunrise and sunset.

Notice the people at the lower left-hand corner and how small they appear. The canyon is roughly 150 ft (45.7 m) at its deepest. Also, find the unconformity (uneven edge) below the red Clayton Formation. The base of the Clayton Formation is often very iron-rich and is mined for ore in other places nearby. The different colors represent different elements present in the sand and clay. Lavender (purple) is caused by manganese, and tan, buff/yellow, pink, salmon, and red are from different levels of oxidization (or rusting) of iron as it bonds with oxygen in the groundwater.

Photo Details: Top - Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T6; f/10; 1/125 sec; Exposure; ISO-100; 18mm; Software: Adobe Photoshop. Bottom - Same except: f/8; 1/60 sec; 18mm.