Thursday, January 8, 2009

Where in the West: Fisher Towers


View of Fisher Towers from the trail-head parking lot.

After driving down Utah Route 128 from I-70 about 20 miles, you will come to a red dirt road and a sign pointing left toward Fisher Towers. As you probably recall, Fisher Towers is in the Richardson Ampitheater, in Professor Valley, within view of the red Colorado River. Fisher Towers and all the Permian and Triassic rocks making up the Richardson Ampitheater are very good examples of why the Colorado River sometimes runs red.

Follow the dirt road - this time of year I strongly recommend 4WD and caution - to the parking lot below the towers. A nice campground sits in the shadow of the towers, in case you want to spend the night. I thought it was a little chilly for that, however, and didn't stay.
tower Above, an excellent view of one of the towers looming overhead, with its dark red Moenkopi cap (Triassic), and red to dark purplish red Cutler Formation walls and base (Permian). If you follow the trail from the parking lot, you can walk beneath the towers, cross gullies and drainages, and generally have a good time.
towers closeup Another close-up view of the towers behind a cliff in the Cutler Formation.
cutler towers Above, a detail of mini-towers in the Cutler Formation.
cutler and cliffs In this photo, above, you can see what the Permian Cutler Formation looks like: the irregularly-bedded, orange-red to pinkish to purplish-red red beds below the red cliff of the Triassic Moenkopi, below the slope-forming Triassic Chinle Formation, which is below the Triassic Wingate Sandstone cliff at the very top of the slope.
cliffs The Moenkopi Formation does not appear to be very thick at Fisher Towers. In this last photo, it consists of just the dark red cliff in the center of the view, along with the medium red cliff just below that. The Cutler Formation starts at the first sign of the slope-forming, mostly talus-covered lighter purplish or pinkish red rocks below the cliff of Moenkopi. I think that the little ledge above the dark red Moenkopi cliff is part of the Chinle Formation, but am not entirely sure of where the upper Moenkopi contact lies. Individual ledges in the Chinle can be used as local marker beds, because they can be followed for some distance. Here, the Chinle is mostly reddish, but it can be various colors, as in the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest of Arizona.

This post, and the two preceding it in this series, were submitted to the first Carnival of the Arid, at Coyote Crossing.


BrianR said...

Somewhere in the Fisher Tower area are some spectacular outcrops of salt-movement-related sedimentation ... with growth strata and progressive unconformities and such ... very cool. I'd have to do some digging to find the references.

Nice photos ... wish I was there right now.

JJ said...

Wow. The first three photos in particular are awesome. Somewhere else to add to the list of places to revisit the next time I get to Utah.

David B. Williams said...

Brian, I think that you referring to the road up Onion Creek, just a few miles toward Moab along US-128, aka the River Road. There are several good spots along that road with salt deformation. Other good spots are on the road to Klondike Bluffs in Arches NP and in Moab valley.

Suvrat Kher said...

When I see these towers I am reminded of an old Western that became very popular in India in the 1970's; Mackenna's Gold with Gregory Peck and Omar Sherrif. Was it shot in the area you describe? or was that just all studio?

Silver Fox said...

Suvrat, I'd have to do some googling to find out about any particular western, but for sure some were shot in the general if not immediate area!

Silver Fox said...

Brian and David, if indeed the formations or sed structures you are talking about are in the area, it's possible I have some old photos (non-digital), but it depends on the location. I haven't been up Onion Creek, but have been on 128 between I-70 and Moab and also have photos in Arches. What should I be looking for?

Silver Fox said...

JJ, yes, you need to come to this area, and when you do, get in touch!!

BrianR said...

In terms of what to look for, I remember standing on a hillside and looking across the road at the opposite hillside (not very high up). What you'll see is a "fanning out" of the beds ... and a decrease in their dip upwards through the succession ... indicating sedimentation was occurring during subsidence. In this case, adjacent to an actively uplifting salt diapir.

I found this page on Onion Creek ... isn't the exact place I was thinking, but looks like it shows what I'm talking about:

a reader- jules said...

Below is a list from the International Movies Database( website of locations where Mackenna's Gold (1969)(one of my favorite movie westerns from that era)was filmed. I always have remembered. probably like Suvrat, the beautiful and exotic looking mesas,outcrops and the large "needle" formation in the latter scenes. That needle was almost like an image from an alien world to me and sort of exemplified the beliefs in supernatural forces in the Native American culture.

Hope this helps

Wonderful photos Silver Fox

Silver Fox said...

Brian, I'll see about looking through some old photos of the area, although I haven't been to Onion Creek I don't think. The Paradox Salt is supposed to be Pennsylvanian in age, so I guess it could have been on the move by the Permian or by sometime in the Mesozoic to affect the red beds and sandstones of the area. The early syn-depositional salt-related deformation is complicated by later Laramide and Recent (I think) deformation related to Laramide folding and (later?) salt diapirism, and according to a couple things I read, possible impacts from spaaace (!). The literature seems immense - one place to start is "Paradox Salt." Much of the literature is related to oil/gas exploration (surprise!).

Silver Fox said...

Suvrat, see the imdb link provided by jules - McKenna's Gold (1969)was shot a lot in Utah and other western states, including Monument Valley, which has a lot of towers and other formations. The list doesn't show Fisher Towers or anything in the Moab area.

Silver Fox said...

Jules, I don't really remember McKenna's Gold, though I might if I watched some clips. Thanks for the movie info and thanks for reading!