Slickrock: A Rock Surface, A Town, and A Geological Unit

December 21, 2021

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Photographer: Thomas McGuire 

Summary Author: Thomas McGuire 

The word slickrock has several meanings; all of them can be associated with the American Southwest. Slickrock is a name applied to places where the early settlers found it difficult to travel because of the sandstone rock surfaces where horses and the metal-rimmed wheels couldn’t get safe traction. But hikers and vehicles with rubber tires find them anything but “slick. In fact, the slickrock area above Moab, Utah, is world renowned for its challenging and sinuous, roller-coaster mountain bike trails over the Navajo Formation slickrock surface.

Slick Rock is also a community in southwestern Colorado. That community has given its name to the lowest member of the Entrada Sandstone formation.

The photo above shows the photographer looking out over slickrock sandstone country, approximately 0.5 mile (0.8 km) west of the Glen Canyon Dam, near Page, Arizona. The stratigraphic positions of the photograph and of the Slick Rock Member of the Entrada Sandstone are shown on the stratigraphic diagram (below), which gives the relative ages of mapable geologic formations. These sandstone formations resulted from geologic history’s greatest erg (sea of sand), created during the Jurassic Period, some 200 million years ago.

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