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We saw some of the most spectacular scenery driving on I-70 through Utah. I wish we could have spent more time but we were able to see so much on the ride and stopped at various scenic vista areas such as the San Rafael Swell and Ghost Rock.

I was in awe of the massiveness of the rock formations and canyons as well as the striations of colors. I only found out the geological science of the area when I returned home. You don’t need to know this information to appreciate the beauty but it is interesting.

According to the website, http://geology.utah.gov/ ,wind shifted massive sand dunes and the sand was deposited in whirls of layers. Buried over eons of geological time, the sands ceased movement and turned to stone. The compressed and cemented rock is called sandstone. Flowing water cut out the cliffs and canyons.

But what makes the colors? It is the union of iron and oxygen to form the mineral hematite.  A chemical reaction occurs whereby iron is oxidized by exposure to air or oxygenated water. The red sandstones are caused by microscopic, oxidized iron films of the mineral hematite spreading and coating the quartz grains. The amount of hematite is very small, but since iron is a powerful pigment a little red goes a long way!

Although red is the common pigment color, not all iron oxides are red; some are brown or yellow (the minerals are limonite or goethite), and some are black (the mineral is magnetite). Some iron minerals are metallic yellow (the mineral is pyrite consisting of iron sulfide) or green (the minerals are chlorite or clay consisting of iron silicate).

Under certain conditions, iron pigment will dissolve in water and be removed, or be rendered colorless by chemical reactions with the water. This causes the bleaching effect on the sandstone.

At the end of the day, we arrived in Fruita, Colorado, just beyond the Utah/Colorado border. This is where we ate some of Mexican food at El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant.

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2 Comments

  1. The terrain is spectacular. 😉

      • archipelagojewelry
      • Posted August 14, 2012 at 8:28 am
      • Permalink
      • Reply

      It is breathtaking.


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