Scenic USA - Utah

Court of the Patriarchs

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Court of the Patriarchs - Zion National Park, Utah

Photo by Scott Dommin
Scott's PBase Gallery

   Towering above Birch Creek Canyon almost 2000 feet, the Court of the Patriarchs represents nearly a full layer of Navajo Sandstone. This exposed sandstone is one of nine Zion rock layers that together span 150 million years of sediment deposits. Although visible from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center, close up views are seen along a short trail from a Zion Canyon shuttle stop. These massive cliffs, created in the Jurassic Period, were named for Old Testament figures. In 1916, Methodist Minister Frederick V. Fischer applied many religious names to the area’s prominent landmarks, and Zion's Patriarchs refer to three generations of Israelites, e.g., Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
   Hard to believe, but the area was once a vast seabed and also a huge desert, until the entire area was uplifted 10,000 feet about 13 million years ago. Here, Zion National Park lies at the intersection of three major geographic provinces, the Colorado Plateau, The Mojave Desert and the Great Basin. The Patriarch cliffs represent one of the thickest layers of sediment, making up some of the tallest cliffs in the world. Occasional flash floods in the Virgin River increase water volume by 100 times and bring down tons of loose rock and sand, scouring out new side canyons and re-channeling the river. Here in Zion Canyon this magnificent scenery is always experiencing change, but its subtleties are seldom recognized in such an immense canyon.

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