• Spires of Cedar Mesa sandstone in Chesler Park (Needles District)


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Morrison Formation

The Morrison Formation in Arches National Park.
The Morrison Formation in Arches National Park.
NPS photo by Neal Herbert

The Morrison Formation is composed of three members (listed from youngest to oldest): Brushy Basin, Salt Wash and Tidwell. Each has different characteristics due to changes in the depositional environment. This layer does not occur in Canyonlands.

Late Jurassic (144 to 208 million years ago)

Depositional Environment:
Varied between river, tidal flat and shallow marine


  • Brushy Basin: multicolored Bentonite clays (volcanic ash)
  • Salt Wash: Light-colored, ledge-forming sandstone
  • Tidwell: red marine sandstones frequently containing chert

Visible in the northern parts of Arches National Park (Salt Valley) and along Highway 191 north of Moab

The Salt Wash Member is a source of uranium which was mined throughout the Moab area. Dinosaur tracks and fossils also appear in the Morrison Formation.

Did You Know?

Desert Bighorn Sheep

Desert bighorn sheep live year-round in Canyonlands. These animals make their home along the rivers, negotiating the steep, rocky talus slopes with ease. Once in danger of becoming extinct, desert bighorns are making a tentative comeback thanks to the healthy herds in Canyonlands. More...