Molding Bryce Canyon: 200 Days of Freeze Thaw

Written by Ali Brehm, ESLLC 2015-2016
It isn’t hard to lose your breath when you encounter any of the Mighty Five in Southern Utah- that being Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Zion, and Bryce Canyon National Parks.
Bryce Canyon is special though. The park is filled with spires (tall, pointed protrusions with a gradated thickness) and Hoodos (tall, flat protrusions that vary in thickness). Instead of being formed by running water through the park, the amazing spires and Hoodoos are created by 200 days of freeze thaw every year.
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In the winter, snow melts and fills the cracks in the rock. At night, when temperatures fall below 32 degrees F, the water freezes and expands by about 10%, which widens the crack just a little each night. Not only that, but the rain that falls onto Bryce Canyon is slightly acidic, melting away the rock grain by grain. This is the process that makes the Hoodoos appear lumpy or rounded. And as such, this makes the Hoodoos extremely fragile. Just as they are formed, they will disappear. The average rate of erosion for Bryce Canyon is at about 2-4 feet per 100 years.
One noted Hoodoo that has changed this past year was Turtle Rock.
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This is it on Presidents Day in 2014.
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This is it now.
This formation lost its head to natural causes. That is why it is so important that you go out and see these things before it’s too late, because someday soon, a lot of them will be gone. It is also so important to protect these formations for others. That means not touching them or even walking to the base of them, as that aids in the erosion process by wearing away the clay around the base. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when people don’t follow the signs! You should stay on the trail, and DON’T step on the crust.
Bryce Canyon staff take a lot of time to document the Hoodoos, and they really like it when people take photos so that they can monitor the natural progression of the erosion of the rocks.
Bryce Canyon is amazing. Southern Utah is one of my favorite places, and I hope that everyone gets a chance to go there and experience the natural wonders that are Hoodoos. (Canyonlands are better though in my opinion).
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