By Timothy R. Yates, 2000
Bryce Canyon National Park, located in southcentral Utah, was first explored by Capt. Clarence E. Dutton and John Wesley Powell in the 1870s. Many of the names in the area are derived from the Paiute language, of the Paiute Native Americans that lived in the area.
The Paiutes were later moved by the Mormons that came in the Paria Valley (where Bryce Canyon is located), and in 1875 Ebenezer Bryce started developing communities in southcentral Utah and nothern Arizona. Byrce Canyon got its name because it was located in Ebenezer Bryce's backyard.
Throughout the 1920s, the government started making efforts in order to preserve Bryce Canyon. And in 1928, legislation was passed that made Bryce Canyon a national park.
During the late Jurassic into the Cretaceous, the rock formations that are exposed in the canyon were developed. An epicontinental sea ran through the continent, and as it retreated towards the sotheast, it left thousands of feet of sediment throughout the area. These sediments are at the very bottom of Bryce Canyon. Iron-rich sediments were deposited in this area throughout the Tertiary. It is these sediments that gives the area its red color.
During the formation of the Rocky Mountains, the entire area was uplifted, forming the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Then, erosion started to wear the area down, exposing some of the underlying Cretaceous rock.
Loose sediments were chemically and mechanically weathered down, by streams, rivers, and, in the winter, freezing rain (which got into the crack of rocks, froze, and broke them apart). These are carved out of the side of the Pausaugunt Plateau, making structures known as fins. These fins are weathered even further to beautifully shaped, distinctive pinnacles known as hoodoos. Afterwards, these undergo additional weathering and eventually collapse.
Click here for the stratigraphi column (Word or PDF format) for Bryce Canyon National Park, UT. The column is a 36K Word document.
Geology Fieldnotes, Bryce Canyon National Park, 2000, National Park Service