Spanish Bottom

Hanksville, Utah

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Cataract Canyon has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most imposing canyons on the Colorado River. The walls of the canyon rise steeply from the water's edge to a height of 1200 feet, and the whitewater rapids in the narrow channel below are often formidable. Yet, oddly, in the midst of this rugged canyon there is an unusually flat swath of river bottomland where the shore widens into a broad sandy plain that extends west from the water's edge to the base of the canyon wall 600 yards away. This geological anomaly is called Spanish Bottom. How was this strange depression formed? Most of Canyonlands lies above an ancient salt bed called the Paradox Formation. Salt tends to flow like a very dense liquid when it is under pressure, and Spanish Bottom is one of many interesting formations in the area that were formed by movements in the Paradox Formation. At some time in the past 100 million years the salt was squeezed out of the strata beneath Spanish Bottom causing the layers of heavy rock it supported to collapse. Spanish Bottom is essentially what is left of an ancient sinkhole. The river has certainly contributed to its present appearance, but the bottom was actually created long before the birth of the Colorado River. This area is one of the few places in Canyonlands where the Paradox Formation is actually visible on the surface.
Canyonlands National Park: Favorite Jeep Roads & Hiking Trails

DESCRIPTION FROM:

Canyonlands National Park: Favorite Jeep Roads & Hiking Trails

by David Day (Rincon Publishing)

Cataract Canyon has a well-deserved reputation as one of the most imposing canyons on the Colorado River. The walls of the canyon rise steeply from the water's edge to a height of 1200 feet, and the whitewater rapids in the narrow channel below are often formidable. Yet, oddly, in the midst of this rugged canyon there is an unusually flat swath of river bottomland where the shore widens into a broad sandy plain that extends west from the water's edge to the base of the canyon wall 600 yards away. This geological anomaly is called Spanish Bottom. How was this strange depression formed?

Most of Canyonlands lies above an ancient salt bed called the Paradox Formation. Salt tends to flow like a very dense liquid when it is under pressure, and Spanish Bottom is one of many interesting formations in the area that were formed by movements in the Paradox Formation. At some time in the past 100 million years the salt was squeezed out of the strata beneath Spanish Bottom causing the layers of heavy rock it supported to collapse. Spanish Bottom is essentially what is left of an ancient sinkhole. The river has certainly contributed to its present appearance, but the bottom was actually created long before the birth of the Colorado River. This area is one of the few places in Canyonlands where the Paradox Formation is actually visible on the surface.

©  David Day/Rincon Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Hanksville
Distance: 2.8
Elevation Gain: 1,260 feet
Trail Type: Out-and-back
Skill Level: Moderate
Duration: 2 hours
Season: Year-round, best spring and fall
Trailhead Elevation: 5,100 feet
Top Elevation: 5,100 feet
Local Contacts: Canyonlands National Park
Local Maps: USGS Spanish Bottom
Driving Directions: Directions to Spanish Bottom

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Apr 2018