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U. S. Canyons

Updated on October 15, 2016
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I had opportunities to visit or live in over one fourth of the world. I am writing about my experiences. Enjoy. Canita

Five Canyons - Physical Science Course

The way to do a physical science course is to do it in the summer while hiking five canyons. If the University you attend offers this course for credit, jump on the opportunity. The canyons to visit are listed in the rock strata order are Palo Duro Canyon, Texas, Bryce Canyon, Utah, Mesa Verde, Colorado, Zion, Utah, and Grand Canyon, Arizona. That is if you enjoy hiking and camping.

Rock Strata

Rock strata youngest to oldest is Cenozoic, Mesozoic and Paleozoic.
Palo Duro Canyon strata is early Cenozoic era which means fossils of modern animals, apes, monkeys and early mammals will be found in this Canyon. Bryce Canyon is early Mesozoic era, Mesa Verde is mid Mesozoic era, Zion is mid to late Mesozoic meaning these canyons hold dinosaur fossils, and the Grand Canyon is the Paleozoic era means fossil found in this area will be reptiles, amphibians, jawed and jawless fish and invertebrates

Postcard of Palo Duro Canyon

Vintage Post Card of Palo Duro Canyon, Amarillo, Texas
Vintage Post Card of Palo Duro Canyon, Amarillo, Texas | Source

Palo Duro Canyon National Park, Amarillo, Texas

Palo Duro Canyon State Park was the first park we visited. This canyon was formed from Prairie Dog Towns. It is made up primarily of hoodoos and caves. Palo Duro Canyon is located in Amarillo, Texas. It was made into a National Park in 1976.

Youngest Canyon

It was a time of learning to put up our tents, assignment of daily duties, short hikes in practice for the “Big One,” learning about May flies, and rock strata. We woke to the sounds of gobbling wild turkeys and the brays of wild mules. We visited a museum and began learning about the Anasazi Indians. Palo Duro is the youngest of the five canyons visited. You may wonder what is a “hoodoo?” It is an irregularly shaped rock produced from effects of the weather.

Post Card of Bryce Canyon

Postcard of Bryce Canyon provided by Utah Travel Guide
Postcard of Bryce Canyon provided by Utah Travel Guide | Source

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Bryce Canyon is located in Southwest Utah. It has a wonderful color pallet; red, pink, tan, orange and white. It is located Northern part of the mountain range that holds Zion National Park, and the Grand Canyon. It was named after Ebenezer Bryce. It was made into a National Park in 1928. It was formed from rain seeping into the cracks, freezing, expanding, and then thawing. Breaking off slice after slice of rock.


We hiked the rim trail of Bryce canyon. It was a 4.7 mile hike in preparation for the “Big One.” This canyon is primarily “hoodoos.” It was a place of superstition for the Native Americans. We did not camp in or around this canyon for our time was limited in this area. We did not see any dinosaur fossils only the wildly formed “hoodoos.”

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Mesa Verde Canyon is located in Montezuma County, Colorado. It was named a National Park in 1966. There is a monument of dinosaurs in this area, but our course took us to the study of the Anasazi Indians.

Mesa Verde, Colorado

Mesa Verde Post card
Mesa Verde Post card | Source

The Balcony

The Anasazi moved from the top of the mesa to inside the mesa around 1190 AD. They built “The Balcony.” It is 45 rooms carved into the ledge of the cliff. There are two kivas located at “The Balcony.” We took the tour of the cliff dwelling and exited by climbing a 32 foot ladder and crawling through a 12 foot long tunnel to the top of the mesa. We had been having campfire talks for a couple of nights by this time and we were learning much about the Anasazi Indians, their kivas and its uses. We learned about their pottery, possible reasons why they chose this area, possible reasons why they left this area, and the possibility that they were cannibalistic.

Louis L'Amour's - The Haunted Mesa

The Haunted Mesa by Louis L’Amour is an excellent book to learn about a kiva and the superstitions surrounding them.

Zion National Park, Moab, Utah

Zion National Park is located near Moab, Utah. Zion is a Paiute word that means “weep,” It became a National Park in 1919.

Zion National Park, Utah

Vintage Post Card of Zion National Park
Vintage Post Card of Zion National Park | Source

The Narrows

This is my favorite canyon. The professors helped us pick out sturdy sticks. It had to be as tall as we were. We were to clean it down to just the bare wood and no branches. This we were to carry with us as we traverse the “narrows.” It is a gorge where the Virgin River runs through the canyon. There are very steep, reddish-tan colored walls made of Navajo sandstone on both sides. The water runs about knee deep between sand dunes. There was a nice breeze blowing down the gorge and it made for a beautiful hike. The park is from the era of dinosaurs, but we saw no dinosaur fossils this trip.

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

Vintage Post Card of The Grand Canyon
Vintage Post Card of The Grand Canyon | Source

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The Grand Canyon National Park is located in the Northwest corner of Arizona. It was made into a National Park in 1919. It is a 19.5 mile hike from the South Rim to the North Rim. We took the Bright Angel Trail to Bright Angel Campgrounds for the night, then we took the North Kaibab Trail to the top of the North Rim. It took about 16 hours and two days to hike the Grand Canyon. When we went only 3% of the people who visited the Grand Canyon had hiked it.

The Big One

This was the “Big One.” Repeatedly we were told that the first day would be the worst. It was all downhill how could it be the worst? We were soon to discover that your toes pounding the toe of your boots is worse than fighting the altitude. We were assigned to find petroglyphs along our hike. Journaling was over 50% of the grade for the course, so journaling took up a big chunk of your time. Instructed not go into the black hills during the heat of the day. You had time to journal and take a short nap if needed.

Suspension Bridge

If you are afraid of heights. You get up early and leave before anyone else leaves camp. You skip breakfast and head to the river in hopes that no one else is on the bridge. The swinging bridge or suspension bridge, 420 feet across the Colorado River. Just 60 feet below is the roaring river, the bottom of the Canyon. You slowly cross over, kissing the ground when you get to the other side. Thanking God no one else was on the bridge with you. This is the scariest part of the whole trip.

Paleozoic Era

This canyon was formed during the Paleozoic era therefore it has many fossil, but there is no digging in this National Park. We see fossils in museum, among our study notes, but they are not seen on this trip. We know where to find them if we ever need them.

Plan Your Own

You can hike any of these canyons. For my favorite, Zion National Park, be sure to get a big stick, camp a night and then go to Bryce Canyon. Palo Duro is near the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest. Mesa Verde is close to the Four Corners and for the “Big One” plan your own trip at: Do a quick study on the Anasazi Indians for they are associated with all five canyons. You may not see fossil at each strata of these canyons, but you will know where to find them.


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