Saturday, March 28, 2009

Introduction to Mukuntuweap

The year was 1909--the year that Mukuntuweap National Monument was established.

Although as early as 1861 several hundred families had moved to the canyonlands included in the National Monument, the canyon's inaccessibility kept it relatively unknown. It wasn't until 1908 that Leo A. Snow, a United States Deputy Surveyor from St. George, Utah, completed a general land survey of the area. His report to the Department of the Interior was so impressive that it was brought to the attention of President Taft with the suggestion that the area should be set aside and preserved--and the following year it was.

The Park has witnessed many changes in landscape and climate over the centuries. At times it was covered by the sea; at other times broad rivers traversed its surface; at still other times it was swept by desert winds. Many of the rocks were laid down by water as gravel, sand, mud, and limy ooze. These were consolidated into conglomerates, sandstones, shales, and limestones by the weight of layers above them and by the lime, silica, and iron that cemented the grains.

Improbable as it may seem, the evidence clearly reveals that the canyon is the result chiefly of the work of the Virgin River. The River's tranquil beauty and life-giving waters belie the tremendous power by which it has sliced through ageless rock layers to carve the canyon.

The Navajo Sandstone (White Cliffs) is the most visible of the Park's formations. From it the temples and towers, the cliffs and canyon walls have been carved, making the Park unique. The Navajo is basically a huge mass of remarkably homogeneous, fine grained, friable sandstone, laid down about 170 million years ago.

The beauty of the sheer canyon cliffs changes with the light. The midday photos portray rock formations that are less dramatic when compared to the striking early morning and late afternoon views.

We spent our first two visits to the Park exploring sites for the more dramatic photos.

Regarding the Park's name, in 1918, the locally unpopular name "Mukuntuweap" was changed to "Zion" and in 1919, the area was made a national park. Today, Zion National Park is visited by more than 2.5 million visitors annually.

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