More Canyonlands National Park, Friday, 10/24/14

Jimmy and I turned around after reaching Big Spring Canyon Overlook, at the end of the 6.5 mile Scenic Drive in Canyonlands.  The next spot we wanted to explore was Pothole Point, which had a short half-mile loop trail to follow.  The rock is composed of sand grains deposited by oceans and wind.  Over millions of years these sand grains became cemented together to form the Cedar Mesa Sandstone.  Because this rock is not uniform in the way it was laid down, it hasn't eroded evenly.  Depressions called, "potholes," formed, and once begun, they continue to grow larger.  They become traps for windblown sand grains and pebbles. Temporary pools created by rainwater collecting in potholes are welcomed and used by birds, mammals and reptiles.  Even tiny creatures live in the murky puddles, but we saw no puddles or creatures today! 

I thought the flat "pillows" behind Jimmy looked like they might have been laid down by an alien space ship.  You can really see the potholes on this slab of slickrock.

 But those flat "pillows" are really so much bigger than we initially thought.

 From afar, Jimmy and I both mistook this eroded sandstone to be a piece of ancient wood or tree root.

The ranger handed us a glossy card when we drove into Canyonlands, entitled, "Biological Soil."  He said everybody gets one and everyone needs to read it and pay attention.  OK, we agreed, and set it aside!  So what is biological soil?  Here's some of what we (eventually) read.  It's a soil crust, and important, as it prevents erosion, absorbs water and provides nutrients to plants.  Crusts grow slowly, formed by living organisms, and mature crusts appear lumpy and black.  They cover nearly all soil surfaces in the desert, and are very fragile.  One footstep can kill hundreds of years of growth.  In short, don't step on it, period.  We didn't.

 Prickly pear cactus has adapted in this biological soil crust.

 Potholes -- big and little -- everywhere!

 What a marvel -- the needle spires -- and far in the distance.  I wish I could've taken a better picture, but shooting into the sun ....

The wooden shoe arch is right in the middle of the photo.  

And it does look like a wooden shoe!

This area was cool to walk about, tho, in reality, the desert sun was getting hot.  As you can see, not much shade is available in this expansive country, and the sun radiating off the slickrock made us feel even hotter.  We dressed for 44° weather this morning, and shucked our jackets early on, but we wished we'd worn shorts.  It was easy to find more to look at, more wondrous sights to behold, and yet the day was wearing on.  So, we jumped back in Smartie and continued on toward Cave Spring.  And we'll post that one tomorrow.  


  1. Love the erosion results!

  2. Learned something new ... I think. I know when we're out on the tundra, we're always asked to be very carful about the plant life and step around it, but I don't think I heard the term biological soil before. Those finger rocks remind me of the one we saw on the Dalton Hwy on our way to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska .... except that finger was pointing up more.


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