Blooming Badlands & Hiking The Paria Box Along Cottonwood Canyon Road

April 22 & 23, 2017

The area around Page, AZ is truly a fascinating place geologically. If you head North West along Hwy 89 to the town of Big Water, UT, and drop in the Visitor Center there, you’ll learn that the area just north of the town used to be covered by a huge inland sea called The Western Interior Seaway, and in the sediments left behind paleontologists have found the skeletons of dinosaurs, including creatures that used to live in this sea like big crocodiles. I highly recommend stopping at the visitor center and if you are interested in geology even a little bit, I’d recommend that you take the scenic drive through the badlands. (Weather permitting).

The first time I took this drive it took me twice as long as suggested, because I stopped regularly to gawk and stare at the sheer beauty of these badlands and I ended up driving the dirt road all the way out to Alstrom Point by Lake Powell (a 24-mile drive that can be pretty rough depending on conditions).

This time I drove a short distance to look at the wildflower bloom, which may not seem like much compared to the super bloom in California at the time, but considering these are Badlands, it was pretty impressive.

WHY do people have to do this kind of thing? (see below). This scar will remain on the landscape for years.

After this, I decided to go up Cottonwood Canyon Road (located between Kanab Utah, and Page AZ along Hwy 89 near mile post 18, at its southern end) in The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. It’s one of my favorite drives and camping areas, and just a few miles into the drive you will start to see exposed oyster beds on either side of the road. They are easy to miss if you don’t know they are there, so I’d recommend stopping your vehicle in a safe spot and walking along the road until you recognize them. If you set your odometer to zero at the cattle guard near Hwy 89 and drive about 3.4 miles up Cottonwood Canyon Road, you will come to a dip in the road. There is a safe place to pull over on the north side of the dip, and from there you can walk down into the wash and see the Cretaceous oyster beds and coal layers.

If there was any kind of precipitation expected I wouldn’t even consider driving on this road because it is mostly bentonite clay, the nastiest, gunky, gooey, slippery, slick and horrendous stuff to drive on imaginable. In fact, it’s just not possible to drive on it when it’s wet. Let’s just say that driving on ice is a piece of cake compared to driving on wet, bentonite clay. Don’t even attempt it!!!

I spent a night camped near The Paria Box trailhead (11.3 miles north of Hwy 89) and the next day hiked up the Paria River to the Box, which is just an area where the river cuts through some sandstone and the river narrows a bit, but it’s not a dramatic slot. While slogging through the cow dung, sand, mud and water, I ran into some researchers, and they gave me the opportunity to look at a Western Fence Lizard up close.

I walked about a mile beyond the Paria Box, where the river opens up again. Somewhere over there is the Old Paria Townsite. I visited this area back in April 2016 and you can see that post and some pictures of the Rainbow Cliffs by clicking here.

In the morning I hiked to The Paria Box, and in the afternoon I decided to hike up Yellow Rock. It was such a beautiful hike, and I took so many pictures I’ve decided to share it in a separate post.

The first time I drove up Cottonwood Canyon Road I purchased the Geology Road Guide to Cottonwood Canyon by Janice Gillespie with Christa Sadler. I’d highly recommend this book, and you can pick one up at the Visitor Center in Big Water before your drive. It covers the geology from south to north, and north to south (which starts in Cannonville, Utah).

I hope you have enjoyed this installment of my travels during the winter of 2016/2017, and hope you’ll continue the journey with me. Please visit the HOME page to find more articles, and feel free to share, sign up and leave a comment. Also please visit my YouTube Channel. Until next time…remember to step outside of your comfort zone as often as possible and watch it grow.

Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature

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3 responses to “Blooming Badlands & Hiking The Paria Box Along Cottonwood Canyon Road

  1. Pingback: Yellow Rock–Cottonwood Canyon Road, Utah | Nomad for Nature ~ A Travel & Photography Blog·

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