Snow Canyon, Utah

PART 1:  Introduction

Snow Canyon is northwest of Saint George, Utah.  It is a colorful place.  Its geology is described and explained in an online brochure from the Utah Geological Survey.

In simplest terms, the youngest rocks are on top, the oldest on the bottom.  White, yellow and red sandstones give evidence of this having been a part of a Sahara-like desert a long time ago, perhaps about 200 million years ago.  That desert stretched to Las Vegas in the west (its Red Rock Recreation Area was part of it) and quite far to the south and east.

Wind-blown dunes were cemented in place and their back-and-forth regradings by wind became fixed, captured in stone.  At other times there were lakes and streams depositing materials like silts and sands reworked from the surrounding sandstone formations into new terrains.  That is what is happening today.

Then, after regional uplift and downcutting by streams, forming canyons, came the volcanoes.  From three million years ago to as recently as perhaps a thousand years ago, magmas flowed into and down the canyon and turned into basalt on its sides and on its floor.  

The very youngest magmas flowed all the way down to the Virgin River, placing hard basalt rock into its flow channel and changing its course in places as its waters cut into the softer material beside the basalt.

These recent-looking basalt at the base of Snow Canyon are built around in the towns below.  the strangely shaped black olivine-rich basaltic rocks make for interesting home and business settings, especially when contrasted with surrounding red soils and rocks.

So, let's start with a view of Saint George from the red cliffs to its north, north-west of which cliffs lies Snow Canyon.  The prominent white building is the St George Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon).  It is made of red sandstone.  Obviously it is painted white.

Note that I am showing the photos in reverse of the order in which they were taken.  So do not be surprised that the first photos are from the middle of the day, and the last photos on the fourth page are taken during sunrise.

On Utah Highway 18, there is an overlook allowing a nice view into the canyon, here are several views from that location.

The first view is looking north to where the sandstone is quite white, standing on the edge of a basalt cliff:

The second view turns to the west:

The third and fourth views turn south toward the towns of Ivins, Santa Clara, and Saint George:

Now we are ready to enter the park [page 2] (on the road seen in several of the previous photos) and we will start with a walk down the Butterfly Trail (remember, this is going back in time).  The Butterfly trail takes you from the road over a small cliff of red sandstone and in our case delivers us to the Lave Flow Trail [pages 3 and 4 to include the West Canyon Overlook].

See views from the Butterfly Trail

See views from the Lava Flow Trail

See views from the West Canyon Overlook

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