Idaho's Pass of the Standing Rock

February 24, 2022


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Photographer: Ray Boren 
Summary Author: Ray Boren  

An impressive rock pinnacle rises in the middle of narrows near the mouth of southern Idaho’s Weston Canyon, as shown in the wintry photographs above taken on January 14, 2022. Motorists traveling the rural state highway between the communities of Weston and Malad through the Caribou National Forest might wonder: Is this lone sentinel an erosional hoodoo, or perhaps some kind of volcanic plug? Geologists instead suggest this landscape feature is a massive block of blue Great Basin limestone that once composed part of the high ridges lining the canyon. Long ago, this chunk of the cliff broke off and landed in its current perpendicular stance.

U.S. government explorer John C. Fremont and his topographical survey crew came this way in 1843, searching for a route between upper Cache Valley and Great Salt Lake. He called the canyon the “Pass of the Standing Rock.” One of two historic markers at the site observes that the fallen monolith is nearly 100 feet (30.5 meters) tall, 75 feet (22.9 meters) wide, and weighs several thousand tons. The left sunnier photo was taken looking up-canyon. Although taken in midday winter shadows, the right photo better shows the rock’s height and is oriented looking down-canyon, toward the little town of Weston, from which the pass gets its name. Weston Canyon, according to the National Register of Historic Places, traverses the southern Bannock Range and the northwestern Malad Range, near the western fringe of the middle Rocky Mountains and on the eastern edge of North America’s Great Basin.

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