29 October 2022

Utah: arches national park — courthouse towers and petrified dunes

After getting back to the car, we headed to the Courthouse Towers, which was just on the other end of the Park Avenue trail. You can walk the whole way and back to the Courthouse Towers from the Park Avenue viewpoint, but we opted to only go half-way since it was just the beginning of our day.

Courthouse Towers

The Courthouse Towers viewpoint is a parking lot surrounded by impressive sandstone features, features that seem different to each visitor's imagination. The three gossips (below) were the most recognizable to the three of us, as well as sheep rock. 

the three gossips

the tower of babel
From the parking lot you can easily see the possible "fallen arch", as well as sheep rock on the right. Here we learned more about the life cycle of arches, and what makes these monoliths living, breathing wonders of nature. 

" Underneath Arches National Park lies a salt bed layer, which was deposited some 300 million years ago when the area was part of an inland sea. When the sea evaporated, it left salt deposits; some areas collected over a thousand feet of these deposits. During the next millions of years, the area was filled with debris deposited from winds, floods, streams and oceans that came and went. Over time this debris compressed into rock. The weight of the rock layer caused the salt bed below to become fluid, allowing it to thrust up and create domes and ridges.

What happened after the movement of salt molded the landscape? Erosion went to work on the surface rock layers and ground water began to dissolve the underlying salt deposits. Water seeped through cracks in the weathered rock and ice formed, further expanding the crevices and weakening the rock. Eventually, the domes began to collapse leaving a maze of vertical free-standing rock walls known as fins. Wind and water continued to assault these fins until they eventually wore through and pieces began to fall away, creating the amazing arches you see today. "
Moab Adventures
It is in this process where the same way arches are formed will be the same way they are, inevitably, brought down. Because of this, it's important to be respectful of the parks we are fortunate to visit in our short lifetime. 

Petrified Dunes

Next was the petrified dunes viewpoint. This location highlights an area that used to be a vast desert rolling with fine-grain sand dunes. As time wore on, other sediment covered the sand, compressing and cementing it into Navajo sandstone. Erosion then exposed the original shapes into what we see today. We were curious to find out why the dunes were "petrified," imagining the way wood becomes petrified, but the name simply referenced the process of the sand cementing into rock.

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