At first, this canyon known as Water Canyon, might look like any ordinary Bryce Canyon kind of canyon. It's not. From 1890-1892 mormon pioneers labored with picks and shovels to carve an irrigation ditch from the East Fork of the Sevier River, through the Paunsaugunt Plateau, into this canyon. Every year since its completion in 1892 (except during the drought of 2002), this canal known as the Tropic Ditch has supplied the communities of Tropic and Cannonville with irrigation water.
By definition Bryce Canyon is misnamed, it is not a real "canyon". Canyons are carved by flowing water. Most of the "canyons" of Bryce are carved by ice forming in cracks - a process known as frost wedging. Even though the Tropic Ditch has been flowing for only a century it has changed the geology of Water Canyon. As you hike up the Mossy Cave Trail, notice how the higher elevations of this "canyon" have the lumpy, broken, and random texture typical of Bryce Canyon and its hoodoos. You will also see how the lower section is without hoodoos, and has smooth angled sides looking like a 'V' in cross-section. Because of this little water course, it is unlikely that hoodoos will form here. The existing ones will eventually crumble and Water Canyon will have completed its metamorphosis into a "real canyon."
Take the left fork of the trail up to Mossy Cave. Mossy Cave is not a cavern but a shelter cave. Here, depending on the season, you will see a large overhang filled with moss, giant icicles. Mossy Cave is a grotto, created by an underground spring.
Take the right fork of the trail and you'll end up above a small waterfall. Here, the rapid trenching of this stream has been delayed by a layer of Dolomite. Dolomite is a special form of limestone that is fortified by magnesium. Dolomite is not only harder than regular limestone, it also can't be dissolved by slightly acidic rainwater. Dolomite is what has created this waterfall and it is also the cap rock for our more famous and durable hoodoos.
Did You Know?
On a clear day, the visibility at Bryce Canyon National Park often exceeds 100 miles! This is due to our exceptional air quality, low humidity and high elevation. More...