Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Canyonlands Erosion from the Needles Overlook

The Hatch Point District of the Canyon Rims Recreation Area features several spectacular overlooks of the eroded rocks east of Canyonlands National Park in southeast Utah. The Needles Overlook is 22 miles along paved County Road 133 from the junction with Highway 191, between Moab and Monticello, Utah.

There is a short system of trails at the Needles Overlook. The view to the north is toward Hatch Point. An Interpretive sign lists the geologic layers visible her as starting at the top with Navajo and Kayenta sandstone. I think these are missing at the tip of Hatch Point but are visible back to the east. The massive cliffs are the Wingate sandstone, and below are the softer Chinle, Moenkopi and Cutler layers.
Slightly west of Hatch Point there are glimpses of the Colorado River. An interpretive sign explaining erosion mentions the power of a raindrop, exploding like a bomb on loose soil particles. Flowing water from flash floods runs off quickly and carries these small grains away.

Freezing and thawing during the winter wedges rock chunks apart. Water flowing in the Colorado and Indian Creek below undercuts rock material as it turns the bends, causing it to crash and get carried away.

The area below the Needles Overlook is called the Lockhart Basin area and can be visited along the 4WD road that turns north a few miles east of the entrance to the Needles District of Canyonlands Park. Hikers can start at the Indian Creek crossing and continue to the area below the Needles Overlook and find Pelican Arch and some Ancestral Pueblo rock art.

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