Carmel Formation

Carmel Formation limestone
Carmel Formation along the East Rim Trail

NPS photo/Adrienne Fitzgerald

Middle Jurassic
~170-165 million years ago

The Carmel Formation consists of limestone containing marine fossils, along with mudstone, sandstone, and gypsum deposited in a shallow interior seaway.
Carmel Formation paleoenvironment

Paleogeographic map courtesy of Ron Blakey, Colorado Plateau Geosystems, Inc.

The Carmel Formation was deposited in a shallow sea environment, with rock types ranging from marine mudstone and limestone to gypsum layers deposited in evaporative coastal lakes. This ancient interior body of water, called the Sundance Sea by geologists, was warm, surrounded by an arid coastline, and bounded by sandy deserts to the south and the east.

This map shows a depiction of Western North America during the deposition of the Temple Cap formation, ~170 million years ago. Zion is located at the star.

small broken pieces of gray Carmel limestone

NPS photo/Adrienne Fitzgerald

Only the lower portion of the Carmel Formation remains in Zion (the Co-op Creek member and small amounts of the overlying Crystal Creek member); the rest of the unit has eroded away in this area.

The Carmel is not visible from Zion Canyon, but can be seen near Zion's East Entrance, where it lays atop the Temple Cap Formation. Hikers will encounter the Carmel at the high points of the East Rim and West Rim trails.
Carmel Formation fossils

NPS photo

Marine fossils are plentiful in the Carmel Formation, particularly bivalves (such as clams) and gastropods (snails), similar to life found in oceans today.

Learn more about the ancient marine life of the Carmel Formation.

Return to the main Rock Layers page

Last updated: July 6, 2015

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Zion National Park
1 Zion Park Blvd.

Springdale, UT 84767


If you have questions, please email Listen to recorded information by calling anytime 24 hours a day. Rangers answer phone calls from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. MT, but a ranger may not answer if they are already speaking with someone else.

Contact Us