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Special Characteristic: Amphitheater Filled With Countless Array of Fantastically Eroded Pinnacles of Vivid Coloring

Bryce Canyon National Park
On the trail—Bryce Canyon National Park

BRYCE Canyon, located in the same general desert region that produced the Grand Canyon and Zion, includes some of the most interesting exposures of the Pink Cliff formation. The rocks which are present in this formation are among the most colorful of any forming the earth's crust. The major beauty spots of the area are found where streams have cut back into the edge of the cliffs, forming amphitheaters or wide canyons filled with pinnacles and grotesque forms.

The Agua Canyon, Natural Bridge, and Rainbow Mountain sections are all magnificent and no trip into the park is complete without visiting them. Bryce Canyon, however, is the most spectacular and best known of all the wonders, and, due to the fact that the original park area included only this one canyon, the park takes its name from this feature. The canyon was named after Ebenezer Bryce, a Mormon pioneer, who was the first to settle near its mouth in the early seventies, and not after the famous English statesman.

In reality Bryce is not a canyon; rather it is a great horseshoe-shaped bowl or amphitheater cut by erosion into the Paunsaugunt Plateau and extending down a thousand feet through its pink and white rocks, chiefly limestone. The amphitheater is 3 miles in length and about 2 miles wide, and is filled with myriads of fantastic figures cut by weathering influences, chiefly by running water, and changes in temperature. Ages have been consumed in their making and even now they are undergoing change, probably as rapidly as at any other time. The older forms are gradually crumbling, and new ones are slowly appearing from the freshly attacked walls. That the rim of the canyon is gradually receding is shown by the large number of trees that have been undermined recently, and now either are precipitated into the canyon below or rest insecurely near the top of the wall.

Words can never convey an adequate conception of the fantasy and beauty of Bryce Canyon. It must be seen to be realized completely. From the countless variety of forms in the canyon it would seem that the imagination of some titanic sculptor had run riot and cut into the soft limestone every figure and shape known to or dreamed of by man. Domes, spires, and temples predominate.

These fantastic carvings vie in interest with the brilliant exotic color that glows throughout. The top of the plateau is composed of white or pale lemon-colored limestone, and along the irregular edges of the canyon are steep slopes of this limestone merging into the pinks and reds of the lower layers. It is out of these pinks and reds, sometimes streaked with lavender and yellow, that the greater portion of the curious shapes are cut, rising from the bottom of the canyon or clinging close to its sides. The taller formations are tipped with white or cream, but the greater number glow throughout with the deeper colors of the canyon. It is a miracle of erosion, astounding in its beauty.

Always exquisite, sunset and sunrise bring added beauty to Bryce Canyon. In the light of the setting sun the colors shimmer and change with the lengthening shadows, finally fading from view as though a veil of mystery were drawn over it all. At sunrise it is, if possible, even lovelier. As the rays of rosy light shoot up into the sky, higher and brighter, a glorious spectacle is revealed. At one's feet the highest points are touched with light and cast long mauve shadows downward into the depths of the amphitheater. Suddenly the sun appears, seeming to roll over the edge of the plateau out into the world. Then Bryce is supremely beautiful. The top most peaks of the towers and spirelike formations in the background intercept the sun's rays and glow as though each peak were lighted within by eternal fires. It is a superb sight, worth the loss of many hours' sleep. To enable visitors to really become acquainted with Bryce Canyon, a series of fine horesback and foot trails has been built in the interesting area under the rim. Trails lead into Queen's Garden, the Silent City, Fairyland, Wall Street, Peek-a-boo Canyon, and other more remote points, each with its well-named peculiar and distinctive forms.


Last Modified: Fri, Sep 1 2000 07:08:48 pm PDT

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