Letter: South Canyon treasure
During the past 14 years that I have lived and worked in the Glenwood area, I have visited and explored the rugged South Canyon Creek valley frequently and extensively.
Between the inaccessible and pristine Paradise Creek to the east and the steep and difficult climbs to the west, lies one of the most spectacular arrays of geologic strata in an other-worldly form of buckled, uplifted and folded sedimentary layers exposed in near vertical fashion; like the pages of a book, resting on its spine, pushing skyward to reveal the words written by the wind and rain of time.
The geological treasure of South Canyon is an unabridged library of life’s sequences, from the maroon cliffs to the Grand Hogback. A three-mile distance south on County Road 134 travels through over 200 million years of rock layers, from Pennsylvanian to Cretaceous time. Over 1,000 hours now I have spent in combing over every hillside, crawling through thick oak brush, climbing atop every ridge, in all seasons, to examine and discover the secrets that hide on treacherous and unforgiving crags of loose stone blocks and shifting soil.
Near the river formations include a “type location” finger named the “South Canyon member of the State Bridge formation,” dating from Permian time, containing evidence from the greatest mass extinction in earth’s history at the P/T boundary about 252 million years ago.
Large boulders of pillow lava indicate an underwater eruption, present throughout the lower half of the valley. At the southern border of the White River uplift to the north, this section squeezed and turned sideways under tremendous force and pressure. A rare fold in the Maroon formation at the west end of South Canyon is best viewed from the trailhead at Storm King mountain.
This steep and narrow canyon approaching the South Canyon landfill supports a large population of black bears that frequent the trash piles daily, and the volume of traffic of trash trucks and dump trucks is steady and unrelenting. Commercial development of this historically significant site should never be realized.
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