Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Slot Canyon in Zion

The Narrows is the most important slot canyon in Zion National Park. The entire canyon is the work of the Virgin River which has been flowing through the sandstone in Zion for many thousands of years. As it flows it wears away e soft rock in varying patterns depending on the hardness of the rock, which comes from the different minerals present. The colors too come from minerals.  The most common mineral is iron which gives the pink and red shades to the rock. But there are whites, blacks and even blues. 

Some of the water seeps through the fissures from above flowing or even falling to the canyon floor. Sometimes the cliff sides weep with this water, and ferns and wildflowers seem to grow out of the rock.

 In the lower part of the canyon the valley is broad because the river has cut through relatively soft rock.  But at the upper part of the canyon, the space narrows to what is known as a "slot canyon."  This is because the rock of the walls is harder and the floor is softer.  Over time the water cuts the canyon deeper rather than wider. 

The trail at the Temple of Sinawava leads to the mouth of the Narrows.  Here the walls are often only 20 feet wide, and the approach is through the icy waters of the Virgin.  There is a real danger of flash flooding.  We saw guided groups putting on wet suits before attempting the hike through icy waters. 

Our hike was the mile along the river where the canyon narrows but is still wide enough so you don't have to hike in the water.  There were a number of other hikers from different nationalities and different ages.  We wandered and paused, amazed by the colors of this perfect day. 

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