Navajo Sandstone

Large exposure of pink and white Navajo Sandstone on Zion's east side
Navajo Sandstone on Zion's east side

NPS photo/Adrienne Fitzgerald

Navajo Sandstone Jurassic Paleoenvironment
Depiction of the Colorado Plateau region during the deposition of the Navajo Sandstone, ~180 million years ago. The location of Zion National Park is starred.

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

Early Jurassic
~185-180 million years ago

The Navajo Sandstone consists of thick layers of cross-bedded sandstone formed by windblown sand dunes in a vast ancient desert. In the early Jurassic, the climate of the Colorado Plateau dried significantly, creating desert conditions over a broad region. The Navajo Sandstone is the result of the largest known sand desert in the history of our planet, which covered the area of today's Colorado Plateau and beyond.
Navajo Sandstone cross-bedding

NPS photo/Adrienne Fitzgerald

Diagonal patterns in the Navajo Sandstone are called cross-bedding. Cross-beds are found in modern active sand dunes, but the Navajo Sandstone preserves the history of ancient wind patterns and migrating sand dunes in this vast desert.

Cross-beds dip downward in the direction the winds were blowing, so in the adjacent photo, the ancient winds blew from left to right.

Temples and Towers of the Virgin in morning light
In Zion, the Navajo reaches its greatest thickness of over 2,000 feet, and makes up the tall cliffs and slickrock found throughout the park.

NPS photo


Last updated: June 13, 2015

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Zion National Park
1 Zion Park Blvd.

Springdale, UT 84767


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