Dance Hall Rock and Tafoni

February 24, 2023

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Photographer: Thomas McGuire 

Summary Author: Thomas McGuire  

In 1879 a group of 236 Mormons answered the call to trek 200 miles (320 km) from their homes in southwestern Utah eastward across partially explored high desert to populate the San Juan River Valley. They had selected an unexplored “shortcut” to avoid an extra hundred miles of travel. 

This natural alcove (top photo), called Dance Hall Rock, provided a place for the travelers to rest and to re-purpose themselves as scouts looking for a way to access the Colorado River, more than 1,000 feet (305 m) down a sheer cliff. They found a cleft in the rock where they had to chisel and dynamite an extremely steep and narrow ascent; so steep that both wagons and horses had to be lowered separately on ropes to the river below. After nearly a year of treacherous travel, they arrived two persons stronger than they left with no fatalities and two babies born along the journey.

The alcove probably resulted from a layer of resistant, Jurassic aged Entrada sandstone, including many tafoni (bottom photo), overlying less resistant sandstone layers that over time had been hollowed out by wind and rain. Photos taken on May14, 2022


Dance Hall Rock, Utah Coordinates:  37.357151, -111.100474

Related Links:

First Light on the Circle Cliffs Anticline

Radial Stress Fracture

More About Tafoni

Author’s Earth Science Textbooks