NPS Geodiversity Atlas—Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona and Utah

Geodiversity refers to the full variety of natural geologic (rocks, minerals, sediments, fossils, landforms, and physical processes) and soil resources and processes that occur in the park. A product of the Geologic Resources Inventory, the NPS Geodiversity Atlas delivers information in support of education, Geoconservation, and integrated management of living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) components of the ecosystem.

gri report cover with entrenched meander photo
In-depth geologic information is contained in the baseline inventory products of the Geologic Resources Inventory, see table below.


Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is located at the center of the Colorado Plateau and extends from the Orange Cliffs in Utah to Lees Ferry in northernmost Arizona. Established on October 27, 1972, Glen Canyon encompasses about 507,523 hectares (1,254,117 acres) of some of the most rugged canyon country on the Colorado Plateau in Garfield, Kane, San Juan, and Wayne Counties, Utah, and Coconino County, Arizona. Lake Powell stretches approximately 300 km (186 mi) behind Glen Canyon Dam, and its 3,150 km (1,960 mi) of shoreline and 96 major side canyons provide for diverse land- and water-based recreational activities. The recreation area not only includes Lake Powell but also sections of the Colorado and San Juan Rivers. Other NPS units, including Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and Rainbow Bridge National Monument, also share a boundary with the recreation area. Glen Canyon preserves a rich history of human presence, adaptation, and exploration that dates back more than 10,000 years.

Geologic Setting

The landscape of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area includes more than 3,000 m (10,000 ft) of sedimentary rocks that were deposited during the Pennsylvanian Subperiod and Permian Period of the Paleozoic Era and throughout the Mesozoic Era, representing ~300 million years of Earth history. Geologic formations in Glen Canyon record a complex history that includes several orogenies (mountain building events), the formation of the supercontinent Pangea, multiple incursions of shallow seas onto North America, vast deserts with Sahara-like sand dunes, the age of the dinosaurs, unique igneous intrusions known as laccoliths, and the carving of the Colorado River system (Graham 2016). The extensive exposures of Mesozoic rocks in Glen Canyon represent one of the best overall Mesozoic stratigraphic sections in the National Park Service, providing exceptional documentation of ancient ecosystems and paleoclimates from about 252 million to 66 million years ago. A diverse assemblage of geologic and geographic features is found in GLCA, including mesas, buttes, cliffs, slickrock, slot canyons, alcoves, hanging gardens, arches, natural bridges, badlands, hoodoos, entrenched meanders, desert varnish, sandstone pipes, and weathering pits.

Paleontological Resources

All NPS fossil resources are protected under the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-11, Title VI, Subtitle D; 16 U.S.C. §§ 470aaa - 470aaa-11).

Cave and Karst

All NPS cave resources are protected under the the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act of 1988 (FCRPA)(16 U.S.C. § 4301 et seq.).

Abandoned Mineral Lands

NPS AML sites can be important cultural resources and habitat, but many pose risks to park visitors and wildlife, and degrade water quality, park landscapes, and physical and biological resources. Be safe near AML sites—Stay Out and Stay Alive!

Regional Geology

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is a part of the Colorado Plateaus Physiographic Province and shares its geologic history and some characteristic geologic formations with a region that extends well beyond park boundaries.

Maps and Reports

The Geologic Resources Inventory produces digital geologic maps and reports for more than 270 natural resource parks. The products listed below are currently available for this park, check back often for updates as many maps, reports, and posters are still in progress.
  • Scoping summaries are records of scoping meetings where NPS staff and local geologists determined the park’s geologic mapping plan and what content should be included in the report.
  • Digital geologic maps include files for viewing in GIS software, a guide to using the data, and a document with ancillary map information. Newer products also include data viewable in Google Earth and online map services.
  • Reports use the maps to discuss the park’s setting and significance, notable geologic features and processes, geologic resource management issues, and geologic history.
  • Posters are a static view of the GIS data in PDF format. Newer posters include aerial imagery or shaded relief and other park information. They are also included with the reports.
  • Projects list basic information about the program and all products available for a park.

Source: Data Store Saved Search 2880. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

NPS Soil Resources Inventory project has been completed for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and can be found on the NPS Data Store.

Source: Data Store Saved Search 2951. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Related Articles

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

National Park Service Geodiversity Atlas

The servicewide Geodiversity Atlas provides information on geoheritage and geodiversity resources and values within the National Park System. This information supports science-based geoconservation and interpretation in the NPS, as well as STEM education in schools, museums, and field camps. The NPS Geologic Resources Division and many parks work with National and International geoconservation communities to ensure that NPS abiotic resources are managed using the highest standards and best practices available.

For more information on the NPS Geodiversity Atlas, contact us.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Last updated: March 18, 2024