Visit Bryce Canyon Before It Changes Forever

Travel Tips, What's New — By julietrevelyan on February 25, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Bryce Canyon National Park is ancient. The funky hoodoos, pinnacles, fins, and other bizarre rock formations that create its natural amphitheater and draw awestruck visitors from around the world began forming millions of years ago. In the great scheme of things, Bryce Canyon changes very, very slowly. Right?

Well, no. Part of this unique national park’s attraction is its constant changeability. Water trickles and erodes the earth, ice creates and then breaks apart the sculpted hoodoos, and gravity ultimately demands every grain of sand. The landscape today is quite different from that of a million years ago, a thousand years ago, and sometimes just last week.

One of the reasons Bryce enjoys national park status is that it’s crumbling and eroding all the time. This makes the scenery gorgeous, dramatic, and always changing. A hoodoo that resembles, say, a member of the royal family may (in fact, will) morph beyond recognition as time and gravity work their inexorable forces on it. Bryce Canyon will certainly be around for a long time still — but it truly will be a different place than it was when you first started planning your trip.

image: Alaskan Dude/Flickr

Consider this:

  1. The amphitheater rim recedes at the rate of one foot every 65 years. In geologic terms, that’s practically sprinting.
  2. Hoodoos erode an estimated two to four feet every 100 years.
  3. Rainfall in the form of a single thunderous summer storm can sluice thousands of tons of sand and silt away from Bryce Canyon. Imagine how much is carted off with each year’s many storms!
  4. During late winter and early spring, the thawing ground grumbles and groans as ice and water do their job of eroding the earth.

Awe-inspiring Wall Street is a stunning section of the Navajo Loop hike that features prominently in many visitor photographs. But will it be open when you make it to Bryce Canyon? Very possibly, the answer is no. Wall Street closes often due to rock falls that are not only potentially dangerous to hikers, but also create lasting transformations in the landscape. In fact, one day the Park Service may permanently close this hike as it evolves along its own natural, ever-shifting path.

So get to Bryce Canyon and see it before the next transformation occurs. Even better, stand in awe as you survey the incredible view and realize this place is changing, quite literally, right before your eyes.

Part of a NileGuide Special Report: 25 Destinations to See Before They Change Forever.

Tags: Bryce Canyon, geology, hike, hiking, hoodoo