Hoodoos, Bridges, and Arches in Utah

After a while, the fantastically eroded landscapes and formations found in southern Utah can all begin to look the same. Don't worry. It happens to everyone. A brief course in the geology of the Colorado Plateau can get your vacation back on track and clear up any confusion while you're busy making memories.

An arch is an opening created primarily by the ceaseless erosional powers of wind and weather. Airborne sand constantly scours cliff faces; tiny and huge chunks of stone are pried away by minuscule pockets of water as it freezes, expands, and thaws again and again over the course of thousands or millions of years. Arches are found in all stages, from cavelike openings that don't go all the way through a stone fin to gigantic stone ribbons shaped by an erosional persistence that defies imagination.

Bridges are the product of stream or river erosion. They span what at some time was a water source powerful enough to wear away softer layers of sedimentary stone through constant force and motion. As softer stone is washed away, the harder capstone layers remain in the form of natural bridges.

The most bizarrely shaped formations have the strangest name. Hoodoos are chunks of rock chiseled through time into columns or pinnacles. Like all rock formations, hoodoos are constructed of layers and layers of horizontal bands. Each band or stratum has its own composition. When wind or water, particularly in the form of heavy, sporadic rainstorms, goes to work on these pillars, the eventual result is a hoodoo—an eccentric and grotesque formation usually found in the company of other hoodoos.

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