Road Guide Quick Select.

HW-160, 163 & 191
Tuba City to Kayenta, Bluff & Montecello, Utah
(through Monument Valley)



0.0  Junction of U.S. Highways 160 and 89 , HW-160 Road Guide. follows U.S. Highway 160 east toward Tuba city and Kayenta. U.S. Highway 89 leads south toward the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park and Flagstaff. For a route description along U.S. Highway 89 northward from here see HW-89A Road Guide..

The road junction is in the Petrified Forest Member of the Chinle Formation. The member is composed of interbedded stream channel sandstone and varicolored shale and mudstone. This member erodes moderately easily and forms the strike valley to the north and south. From here the route of this guide leads upsection into younger and younger beds of the Chinle Formation.

0.7  Cross Hamblin Wash and rise from the Petrified Forest Member into the pinkish banded Owl Rock Member of the Chinle Formation. The upper member forms pronounced laminated pinkish gray and green badlands, distinctly unlike the rounded Painted Desert-type massive badlands of the underlying member.

1.6  Road rises up through the upper part of the Chinle Formation, a typical wavy to hummocky road. Highway construction is easy across the slope-forming parts of the formation, but holding the road after construction is difficult because the soft volcanic ash-bearing shales heave under load or after wetting and drying. Ashy gray marls and pinkish mudstones show well in badlands along the road (fig. 10. 1). To the north the monocline along the Echo Cliffs separates the Marble Platform on the west from the Kaibito Plateau on the east. Hamblin Wash has eroded along the outcrop of the Chinle and Moenkopi Formations between the more resistant Kaibab Limestone below and the cliff-forming Moenave and Navajo Sandstones above.

Figure 10.1.View northward to exposures of the Owl Rock Member of the Chinle Formation along the Echo Cliffs Monocline, where Route 10 crosses the main part of the fold.


4.8  Side road north to Moenave. Approximately 500 yards north of the highway, along the Moenave Road, three-toed dinosaur foot prints (fig. 10.2) are preserved in one of the resistant sandstone beds of the upper part of the Chinle Formation, The tracks are in a barren area immediately west of the road. Local women may have exhibits of juniper seed and glass beadwork for sale at the site.
,br /> Moenave is the community to the north near the tall poplar trees and spring areas along the Moenave Sandstone escarpment.

Figure 10.2.Three-toed dinosaur footprints in the upper part of the Chinle Formation north of the route on the Moenave road.


6.4  U.S. Highway 160 climbs through double road cuts in the almost Moenkopi looking upper part of the Chinle Formation in the candy-striped gypsiferous upper part of the section. Moenave beds hold up the escarpment to the north (fig. 10.3).

9.6  The highway now swings northward up off the floodplain of Moenkopi Wash through road cuts of Moenave Formation. These resistant sandstone beds form the plateau surface beneath the south end of Tuba City.

Figure 10.3.View northward to uppermost Chinle beds and lower Moenave beds along the walls of Moenkopi Wash southwest of Tuba City at approximately Mile 8.


10.4  Junction of Access Road North to Tuba City and South to Moenkopi with U.S. Highway 160.

11.7  Small reservoir east of Tuba City. Cross-bedded Kayenta Sandstone rests on top of the resistant Moenave Sandstone near the road. The road east of Tuba City is in poor exposures of Wingate-Kayenta-Navajo Sandstone blanketed by loose drifting sand. Castle Butte to the north and Middle Mesa to the northeast show Navajo Sandstone capped by Carmel Formation.

16.4  Now abandoned uranium processing plant and associated housing. Rounded Navajo Sandstone begins to show in exposures in Moenkopi Wash to the south. Brownish beds in the immediate vicinity are probably basal Carmel Formation.

25.6  Rest area at the western base of Middle Mesa (fig. 10.4). Navajo Sandstone forms the lower, light tan, rounded bluffs and are capped by flat-bedded reddish Carmel Formation which is overlain by remnants of Entrada Sandstone at the top of the mesa.

25.6  Figure 10.4. View eastward from near the rest area at the western base of Middle Mesa at Mile 25.6. Navajo Sandstone is exposed beyond the buildings, below well-bedded Carmel and Entrada Formations.

33.3  Side Road to Tonalea School. A short distance beyond the junction the road dips down into a wash which exposes upper Navajo Sandstone, crinkly reddish Carmel Formation, and reddish brown to grayish green Entrada Formation. Red Lake Trading Post is on the western bluff of the wash south of the highway. Reddish beds of the Entrada Formation have a mottled to marbled weathered surface. Red Lake is in the valley to the south.

34.8  Elephant's Feet Rest Area. The "feet" are erosional remnants of light gray cross-bedded Entrada Sandstone (fig. 10.5). The "toes" are in the underlying reddish part of the formation. To the east Morrison Formation and Dakota Sandstone are exposed along the western end of Black Mesa.

Figure 10.5. The Elephants Feet at Mile 34.8. These interesting erosional remnants are in Entrada Sandstone.


39.7  Junction of side road to Navajo National Monument, Inscription House and Navajo Mountain. U.S. Highway 160 swings parallel to the electric railroad right of-way. The railroad hauls coal from Black Mesa to the Navajo Power Plant near Page, Arizona.

43.2  Cow Springs Trading Post. The prominent white sandstone to the south of the trading post is the Cow Springs Sandstone (fig. 10.6) and is above the reddish part of the Entrada Formation and below the Morrison Formation. Prominent gray shale slopes near the top of the mesa expose Mancos Shale capped by the coal-bearing Cretaceous Mesa Verde Group.

Figure 10.6. Cowspring Sandstone is the massive light gray unit at the base of the escarpment on the north side of Black Mesa. These exposures are southeast of Cowspring Trading Post, south from approximately Mile 44.0.


47.8  Coconino County-Navajo County Boundary. The Cow Springs Sandstone forms the relatively prominent light gray ledges to the south beneath Morrison beds. Morrison Formation forms the lower half of the Black Mesa escarpment and Mancos Shale and Mesa Verde beds the upper half. From high points along the road Navajo Mountain is visible toward the north. Navajo Mountain is cored by a laccolith, like intrusions in the Henry Mountains, La Sal Mountains, and Ute Mountain, but Navajo Mountain is still roofed with uparched Navajo Sandstone.

51.4  Junction of Arizona State Highway 98 with U.S. Highway 160. Arizona Highway 98 leads northwestward toward Page. To the south the front of Black Mesa still exposes Morrison beds as the gray and pinkish units near the base, with Mesa Verde Sandstone forming the mesa cap. U.S. Highway 160 continues on through Klethla Valley which is carved on nonresistant Carmel and Entrada beds.

63.6  Storage Silos and Tipple at the End of the Railroad. Coal is transported from the mines on the mesa to the southeast to the loading area by a belt system which is bridged over the highway (fig. 10.7). Coal in the strip mines area is up to 36 feet thick and as much as 100 feet of overburden is being removed in the mining operations (fig. 10.8).

64.4  Road Junction to Navajo National Monument Toward the North. A side road also leads south from here approximately 15 miles into the Peabody Coal Mine area on top of Black Mesa. Morrison and overlying Cretaceous rocks are exposed along the access road in the mesa front (fig. 10.7).

Figure 10.7.Eastward along the escarpment of Black Mesa from near Mile 64.4, past the belt delivery system for Peabody Coal Company's operation. the belt delivers coal to storage and loading facilities at the end of the Navajo project railroad. East of the junction there is a double series of cliffs on the escarpment. Lower ones are held up by Morrison Formation above the light gray Cow Springs Sandstone and the upper one is held up by sandstone of the Mesa Verde Group, above the gray Mancos Shale slope.


Figure 10.8.Peabody Coal Company Mine in Cretaceous Mesa Verde rocks on Black Mesa south of the route. Approximately 100 feet of overburden is being stripped from left and heaped in chat piles on the right to gain access to underlying coal that is up to 36 feet thick.


66.2  Rest Area. Massive very light gray Cow Spring Sandstone is "posed at the base of the mesa scarp and is overlain by reddish shale and light cliff-forming sandstone of the Morrison Formation. Behind the frontal lower cliff zone of Morrison Formation (fig. 10.9) Mesa Verde rocks are exposed in the prominent banded cliffs on the skyline. Toward the north Navajo Sandstone and older units are exposed on the south end of Organ Rock Monocline at the northern edge of the Black Mesa Basin.

Figure 10.9.View eastward of the very sandy lower part of the Morrison Formation exposed in a frontal cuesta along the north flank of Black Mesa basin at approximately Mile 66.2. The thick sandstones are channel filling and are separated by slopes carved on gray green shale.


69.3  Massive slickrock exposures to the north are the top of the Navajo Sandstone dipping southward on the monocline. Klethla Valley through here is a subsequent valley in Carmel and Entrada beds.

72.6  Tsegi Trading Post. The highway is constructed across fill and debris from the escarpment to the south and across soft Entrada and Carmel beds. Massive Navajo Sandstone, slope-forming Kayenta Sandstone, and cliff-forming Wingate Sandstone are visible in canyons to the northwest (fig. 10.10) where erosion has cut down into the still older Chinle beds along the Organ Rock Monocline in Tsegi Canyon.

Figure 10.10.View northward up Tsegi Canyon, west of the Tsegi Trading Post at Mile 72.6. Cliffs on the skyline and in the foreground are in Wingate Sandstone. The massive sandstone rests on slope forming Chinle beds that are exposed in the notch in the canyon at the lower left.


73.5  Road cuts are in upper Navajo Sandstone along the narrows of Laguna Creek. Notice how deeply Laguna Creek has entrenched into the Recent sand and silt which partially filled the gorge.

76.2  The Organ Rock Monocline now swings to the north away from the highway. Road cuts are in Morrison Formation. To the north Navajo, Kayenta, and Wingate Sandstones form spectacular flatirons on the monocline. To the south the Morrison Formation is now composed of massive series of channel-fill sandstone lenses. It is these kinds of deposits which have produced dinosaurs in various parts of the West. Uranium minerals accumulations have also been recognized. Cretaceous rocks form the rim beyond on the skyline (fig. 10.11) around Black Mesa Basin.

Figure 10.11.Southeastward from near Mile 80 along the northeastern side of Black Mesa basin showing Cretaceous rocks which hold up the rim. Morrison beds form the lower exposures and Mancos Shale erodes to the distinct slope zone up the middle put of the cliff. Mesa Verde Group forms the upper series of the cliffs along the skyline.


80.0  Double road cuts through sandstone in the Morrison Formation. Numerous small channels are cut into the sandstone, some of them are partially filled with green and red mudstones and others are filled with coarse-grained sandstone. Toward the north Agathlan or Agathle's Needle rises above the cuesta of Navajo Sandstone and older rocks beyond the town of Kayenta.

84.2  Junction of U.S. Highways 160 and 163. Turn north on U.S. Highway 163 toward downtown Kayenta, Monument Valley, and Mexican Hat. U.S. Highway 160 continues to the northeast through the Four Corners region and toward Cortez, Colorado. Numerous small intrusive masses are visible to the east and have the same general appearance as Shiprock or Agathle's Needle, but are smaller.

86.4  Northeast Edge of Kayenta. Crossbedded sandstone nearby is upper Navajo Sandstone. To the east rises Church Rock, a basaltic volcanic neck. The route soon crosses Laguna Creek which is deeply entrenched into young valley fill, Navajo Sandstone is exposed to the north, dipping southward into Black Mesa Basin.

88.2  Cross through the cuesta composed of Wingate, Kayenta, and Navajo Sandstone, all dipping southward off the Monument Valley upward and into Black Mesa Basin. North of the cuesta the highway is constructed over varicolored purple, green, maroon, and gray Chinle Formation. Chaistla Butte is the dark promontory to the east and is one of the volcanic necks or intrusions associated with Agathle's Needle, the peak to the north (fig. 10. 12).

Figure 10.12.Agathle's Needle (Agathlan or El Capitan) is the now-denuded volcanic neck of dark breccia, here rising above gentle slopes on the Chinle Formation. Agathle's Needle is one of a series of similar volcanic necks or intrusions that can be seen east of the highway north of Kayenta.


93.5  Rest Area at the Northwest Base of Agathle's Needle or Agathlan. The spire is a now denuded intrusion which may have been a volcanic neck or a finger-like plug up into the Triassic Rocks. It is a dark basaltic looking breccia cut by smaller dikes. Chinle Formation is exposed in the low country side, and here and there gravel caps contain silicified fossil wood. Owl Rock to the west is an outlier of Navajo and Kayenta Sandstone, above the massive Wingate Sandstone.

96.9  Side road to Hoskinnini Mesa. Boot Mesa is to the northwest and is rimmed by a vertical wall of Wingate Sandstone, capped by Kayenta and Navajo Sandstones. The highway is in Chinle Formation.

98.9  Massive Shinarump Sandstone forms the ledges and cliffs to the east and for a short distance to the northeast. Another small intrusion cuts the Shinarump beds to the northeast. The highway crosses a thinned Shinarump Sandstone cuesta at approximately Mile 98.4. Beyond that the road is on the Hoskinnini Member of the Moenkopi Formation.

101.7  Beehivelike hills to the northwest and southeast are in the upper part of the Permian Cedar Mesa Sandstone. Hills to the northwest are capped by a thin Moenkopi and thin Organ Rock Shale. Halgaito redbeds form the broad slope down to the top of the Pennsylvanian Honaker Trail Formation which holds up the lower platform.

103.6  Excellent exposures of Cedar Mesa Sandstone forms beehives above wellbedded Halgaito Shale. This cliff is carved in the same massive sandstone which forms the buttes and columns in Monument Valley, to the northeast.

108.1  Arizona-Utah Boundary , in the western part of Monument Valley. The Mittens, to the east, and Mitchel Butte and Mesa in front of them to the southeast, have vertical cliffs of Cedar Mesa Sandstone with reddish Organ Rock and Moenkopi beds above and the reddish Halgaito Shale below. The highway is still at the top of the Honaker Trail Formation.

108.5  Junction of Side Roads East to Navajo Council Park and West to The Gap, Hospital, and Gouldings Trading Post. The road to the east leads 1.9 miles to a tribal campground, exhibit area, and overlook into Gypsum Creek and some of the spectacular erosional features of Monument Valley (fig. 10.13), as well as to the head of an access road which leads down into the scenic area. The road west leads 2.5 miles west to the hospital and Gouldings Trading Post in The Gap.

Beyond the junction U.S. Highway 163 crosses the valley of Mitchell Butte Wash mainly on recent windblown sediments.

Figure 10. 13.View eastward into Monument Valley from the Navajo Council Park which is accessible by the side road east from Mile 108-5. The Mittens are in Cedar Mesa Sandstone, above a slope on Halgaito Shale. The lower part of the valley is on the top of the Honaker Trail Formation


114.4  Excellent exposures of Halgaito redbeds occur in canyons and around the base of Eagle Mesa, to the west, Sentinel Mesa to the south, and Eagle Rock to the east (fig. 10. 14) and along the road in Monument Pass. Massive Cedar Mesa Sandstone forms the cliffs capped by Organ Rock Shale or Hoskinnini Sandstone (fig. 10.15). Be yond the pass the highway drops through Halgaito beds onto the top of the fossiliferous Honaker Trail Formation toward the northeast (Fig. 10. 16).

Figure 10.14. Eagle Rock, east of the highway at Monument Pass, is capped by Hoskinnini Sandstone and Organ Rock Shale, above vertical cliffs of massive Cedar Mesa Sandstone. Halgaito beds are the ledge and slope zone below, down to the top of the Honaker Trail Formation which is slightly below road level here.


117.6  View Area to the south looks across Eagle Rock or Hulkito Wash to the Mittens area of Monument Valley (fig 10.16).

121.0  Lower part of the Halgaito Formation and top of the Honaker Trail Formation at road level. The top of the Honaker Trail Formation forms the stripped surface over the Halgaito anticline between here and Mexican Hat.

122.2  Airport side road. Thin beds of the Honaker Trail Formation are exposed here at about the crest of the anticline over which we've been driving. Some of the lower limestone beds exposed in the gorges are fossiliferous.

126.1  Beginning of steep dip down the east flank of the Halgaito Anticline in outcrops of resistant limestone and softer gray shale of the top of the Honaker Trail Formation.

126.6  Scenic turnout on the north. On the skyline is Alhambra Rock (fig. 10. 17), a small dark igneous intrusion, which is probably related to Agathle's Needle and similar intrusions to the south. Hogbacks and flatirons are well displayed on the west side of Raplee anticline to the east. These red and gray striped beds on the crest and flank of the structure are the same beds through which we are now riding. The brick red unit between here and the Raplee Anticline, in the vicinity of the Uranium Mill and Mexican Hat, is Halgaito Shale in the Mexican Hat Syncline. The curve of the highway, at about the base of the steep hill, is approximately at the contact of Honaker Trail and Halgaito Formations.

Figure 10.17.Alhambra Rock or The Mule's Ear Diatreme, a small intrusion rises above gently dipping basal Halgaito Shale and upper Honaker Trail Formation, as seen northward from Mile 126.6 on the road log.


128.2  Side road east to Atlas Uranium Processing Plant at Mexican Hat. The mill was built here to handle ores mined in the White Canyon area and other areas nearby.

130.0  Cross San Juan River at Mexican Hat. The river marks the northern boundary of the Navajo Indian Reservation here. To the west down the gorge the tan Honaker Trail Formation is exposed below the more maroon and brick red Halgaito Shale that forms the upper red rim at the bridge.

131.2  Northeast end of Mexican Hat. U.S. Highway 163 continues northward, west of Raplee Anticline (fig. 10. 18), in the contact zone of the Halgaito Shale on Honaker Trail Formation. Mexican Hat (fig. 10.19) is on the skyline to the northeast, just beyond the small synclinal, reef-limited, Mexican Hat oilfield.

Figure 10.18.View northeastward across the Mexican Hat oil field toward the Raplee Anticline, from the northeast edge of the community of Mexican Hat at Mile 131.2. Well-bedded units in the Raplee Anticline are in the Honaker Trail Formation, but rounded hills immediately beyond the gravel quarry are Halgaito beds in the Mexican Hat Syncline. The Mexican Hat oil field is in the trough of the syncline. The petroleum accumulation is in a small shallowly buried reef in the Pennsylvanian sequence.


Figure 10.19.Mexican Hat as seen from the southeast from a graveled road that leads eastward from Mile 133.0. The Hat is a resistant unit in the Halgaito Formation.


133.0  Side road junction to the east. Gravel road leads down to the shore of the San Juan River and around the northern and eastern side of Mexican Hat. The highway is constructed on top of the uppermost Honaker Trail Limestone which is locally fossiliferous. Double road cuts are in Halgaito beds which contrast sharply with the underlying gray limestone.

134.5  Junction of Utah State Highway 61 with U.S. Highway 163. State Highway 61 leads west toward Goose necks of the San Juan River State Reserve and toward Natural Bridges National Monument. For a guide to this segment of the route to the Goosenecks see HW-89. Continue ahead on U.S. Highway 163 toward Bluff and Blanding.

Road cuts immediately beyond the junction are in marine limestone at the top of the Honaker Trail Formation which is dipping eastward into the Mexican Hat Syncline. The San Juan River has cut across the Raplee structure to the east and exposed the Paradox Formation in the gorge. West of the anticline, however, the river had adjusted to the softer Halgaito beds along the syncline.

135.1  Double road cuts through lower beds of Halgaito Shale. Honaker Trail beds are exposed in some of the deeper gullies.

137.7  Cross Lime Creek in Halgaito redbeds with gray Honaker Trail beds exposed to the east. Halgaito beds form hoodoos in the immediate vicinity and are capped by a thin Cedar Mesa Sandstone which forms the "mushrooms" on top of the cliffs.

138.8  Junction of side road to the Valley of the Gods scenic area (fig. 10.20). Theroad to the west leads down across Lime Creek and around on the platform at the top of Honaker Trail beds into Valley of the Gods. The road leads 14.5 miles through the scenic area and connects with Utah State Highway 61 near Lees Ranch, northwest of Goosenecks of the San Juan turnoff It is a moderately maintained primitive road, but suitable for most passenger cars with caution. Erosional remnants of the Cedar Mesa Sandstone have brick red Halgaito Shale bases and make up the monuments in Valley of the Gods.

Figure 10.20. Monolithic "Gods" in the Valley of the Gods to the west of the highway, Rocks in the foreground are uppermost limestones of the Honaker Trail Formation and are abruptly overlain by slop-forming red Halgaito beds. The sheer cliff wall, the erosional remnants for which the area are noted, is in Cedar Mesa Sandstone. Valley of the Gods is accessible by a relatively primitive road that leads westward from Mile 138.8.


140.7  Deep double road cuts through alternating resistant sandstone and easily eroded shale of the Halgaito-Honaker Trail transition beds. Fresh road cut exposures show the lenticular nature of some of the sandstone beds.

143.3  West flank of Limestone Ridge Anticline near the contact of Halgaito and Honaker Trail Formations.

144.5  Crest of the Limestone Ridge Anticline. To the east ledges of Honaker Trail Formation show well in gullies and start to dip eastward into Comb Wash.

146.0  Double road cuts through east dipping Honaker Trail Formation with slope of the road and dip about the same. The Cedar Mesa Sandstone which forms the cliffs to the west thins to the east and grades into gypsiferous red bed facies on the eastern side of Lime Ridge (fig. 10.2 1).

Figure 10.21 Northeastward from approximately Mile 146 of the strong flexure down the east side of the Comb Wash Monocline. Halgaito beds, in the foreground near the road, are overlain by a single, thin tongue of Cedar Mesa Sandstone in the middle distance. Cliffs on the skyline are Wingate, Kayenta, and Navajo beds in the Comb Wash Monocline.


146.7  Cross through double road cuts in Halgaito redbeds.

147.3  Interbedded tan and redbeds in transition from Halgaito Formation into gypsiferous evaporite facies of Cedar Mesa Formation (fig. 10.21). This part of the section is capped by a thin sandstone 10 to 12 feet thick which is about all that is left of the massive cross-bedded Cedar Mesa Sandstone visible to the west. East of where the highway crosses through the light gray sandstone the gypsiferous upper part of the eastern Cedar Mesa evaporite facies is exposed in road cuts and along the anticlinal flank.

147.5  Massive gypsum in Cedar Mesa evaporite facies at top of series of road cuts. A short distance to the east a single, thin, light tan sandstone at the east end of the road cuts is the top of the Cedar Mesa sequence and marks the base of the Moenkopi Formation.

147.7  Moenkopi beds well exposed as reddish brown, thin, laminated, easily eroded sandstone and shale, particularly at the west bridge abutment.

148.2  Cross Comb Wash. The road climbs from Comb Wash floodplain and into debris-covered Chinle beds. Shinarump Conglomerate is exposed to the south as the tan or light gray resistant unit a short distance downstream from the bridge. Light grayish green and purple Chinle Formation is exposed down the wash beyond and in cuts along the west part of Comb Ridge.

148.5  Base of the Wingate Sandstone and top of Chinle Formation in road cuts along the west side of Comb Ridge with Wingate Sandstone in the deep double road cuts through the ridge. Comb Wash to the west is a subsequent stream in the easily eroded Triassic Moenkopi and Chinle rocks. Flatirons of upper Honaker Trail and lower Halgaito beds show on the east flank of Lime Ridge Anticline to the southwest.

148.8  Flaggy-bedded rocks near the east end of the deep road cut are in Kayenta Formation and cuts in the crest of the ridge to the east are in Navajo Sandstone. East of the east end of the cuts the slickrock country is on the top of the spectacularly cross-bedded Navajo Sandstone.

149.5  Cross-bedded Navajo Sandstone particularly well exposed on the north, approximately 100 yards west of an historical monument marking where men of the Hole-in-the-rock company spent a night in a snowstorm while trying to locate a trail across Comb Ridge in the later 1800s. Beyond the monument U.S. Highway 163 dips down and crosses Butler Wash, still in Navajo Sandstone.

150.2  East end of Navajo Sandstone road cuts, east of Butler Wash. Reddish Carmel Formation overlies the very light gray or tan Navajo Sandstone. To the north the high bluff above the shelf carved on the Carmel and Summerville Formation is formed by the almost Navajo-like Bluff Sandstone Member of the Entrada Formation. Bluff Sandstone forms the cliffs across the San Juan River to the southeast and east of us as well.

151.6  The highway drops off a gravel armoured high level terrace of the San Juan River onto a lower terrace. Navajo Sandstone is exposed in the river gorge to the southeast of us.

152.4  Junction side road to Sand Island Recreational Site. This is where boaters put into the river for trips down the San Juan River to Mexican Hat. East of the river the massive, white, Bluff Sandstone rises above the softer lower red Summerville Formation.

153.7  Drop from intermediate to lower gravel-veneered terraces here cut into reddish Carmel beds.

155.0  Bluff town limits at the southwest edge.

155.5  Cross Cottonwood Wash into the older part of Bluff. The stream is virtually choked with sediment and is consistently complexly braided and shallow.

157.4  Navajo Twins carved from Bluff Sandstone at the northwestern edge of town (fig. 10.22). Sunbonnet Rock, below, is a pedestal of lower reddish Summerville beds capped by a tumbled Bluff Sandstone block.

A short distance to the north, near St. Christopher's Mission Store, U.S. Highway 163 rises from the San Juan River Floodplain and climbs up through reddish Summerville Formation.

Figure 10.22.The Navajo Twins and Sunbonnet Rock at Mile 156, on the north edge of the community of Bluff. Upper light part of the Twins is in the Bluff Sandstone and the lower banded beds are Summerville Formation. Sunbonnet Rock is a tumbled block of Bluff Sandstone.


157.5  Upper narrows along highway where the route crosses through massive, white, cross-bedded Bluff Sandstone. Here the formation appears much like the older Navajo Sandstone and is probably an eolian deposit also. The road climbs northward onto the top of the Bluff Sandstone and into lower beds of the Morrison Formation.

160.6  Low hills to the east are in rocks of the lower Morrison Formation. Morrison beds are also well exposed in the tributaries to Cottonwood Creek to the west. Bright, light gray, Navajo Sandstone is exposed along the east side of Comb Ridge on farther to the west.

162.9  U.S. Highway 163 rises up and down through the Morrison section. Light colored resistant sandstone lenses here are remnants of old channel fillings. From the air these sandstone fillings stand out in relief as sinuous ridges for the softer enclosing floodplain deposits have been eroded away from around them.

164.5  Panoramic viewpoint, looking across Morrison beds. The San Juan Mountains, over 12,000 feet high, form the skyline in the far distance to the east, north of rounded Ute Mountain, elevation 9,900 feet. The Abajo Mountains are the promontories to the north and they have a high point with an elevation of 11,345 feet on the eastern peak. The top of Black Mesa, to the northwest, and White Mesa, to the north, are capped by Dakota Sandstone.

167.3  Junction of Utah State Highway 262 with U.S. Highway 163. State Highway 262 leads east to Hovenweep National Monument, Aneth Oil Field, and Cortez, Colorado. North of the junction Morrison beds show in the bluff (fig. 10.23) at the south edge of White Mesa as major channel-fill sandstone lenses and softer mudstone. The mesa cap of Dakota Sandstone is prominent along the highway route.

Figure 10.23. westward along the escarpment at the south end of White Mesa in the Morrison Formation as seen from approximately Mile 167.5. Dakota Sandstone caps the escarpment above the banded Morrison sequence.


168.1  Dakota Sandstone at the top of the climb to the flat uplands of White Mesa. The road on northward is across the Dakota protected surface but gullies to the east and west show Morrison beds below.

172.5  Water tower for small community. The highway is still on Dakota Sandstone but here these Cretaceous rocks are blanketed by the reddish brown, loess-derived, Dove Creek soil, It is this soil which makes the area particularly suitable for agriculture.

180.5  Junction of Utah State Highway 95 with U.S. Highway 163. Utah State Highway 95 leads westward to Natural Bridges National Monument, Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and Hanksville. Continue northward along U.S. Highway 163 to Blanding and Monticello. From here to Blanding the highway continues on Dove Creek soil over Dakota Sandstone.

181.4  Blanding airport to the west. The highway is still over Dove Creek soil and Dakota Formation, but rises toward the north over gravelly debris aprons from the southern part of the Abajo Mountains.

184.5  Blanding southern city limits. The community is built on the northern end of White Mesa, at the southeastern base of the Abajo Mountains.

185.5  Northern limits of Blanding, the road continues northward essentially on the top of the Dakota Sandstone which is veneered by Dove Creek soil and gravel debris.

189.5  Cross Recapture Creek, a deeply entrenched drainage from the southeastern part of the Abajo Mountains. Coarse grained Dakota Sandstone is well exposed in cuts along the rim of the canyon and Morrison beds are exposed in the valley (fig. 10.24). The highway climbs toward the southeast side of the Abajo Mountains (fig. 10.25).

Figure 10.24. Northward across Recapture Creek towards the Abajo Mountains on the skyline, Rocks along either side of the canyon rim are Morrison beds, capped by relatively resistant Dakota Sandstone which forms the wooded uplands and the upper canyon rim. The Abajo Mountains are stock like intrusions cutting rocks as young as Cretaceious.


Figure 10.25. Northwestward from Mile 190 to the Abajo Mountains across the apron of coarse gravel which veneers a pediment surface on Dakota and Mancos beds.


195.2  Cross Devils Canyon, a tributary to Montezuma Creek to the east. Dakota Sandstone is exposed at the rim (fig. 10.26).

Figure 10.26. Cross-bedded resistant Dakota Sandstone across Devil Canyon, a tributary to Montezuma Creek. Burro Canyon beds are exposed in the narrow notch in the base of the canyon and to the east of the road.


200.4  Cross through Verdure graben, a downdropped block, with Dakota Sandstone dropped down against Burro Canyon or Morrison beds. The canyon here is approximately 200 feet deep near the community of Verdure.

201.4  Junction Side Road to Montezuma Canyon with U.S. Highway 163. The side road leads southeastward into Montezuma Canyon where uranium was produced from the Salt Wash Member of the Morrison Formation. Montezuma Canyon is also well-known for ancient Indian ruins.

206.1  Site of abandoned Monticello uranium mill east of the highway at the south end of town. Dakota Sandstone is exposed along the bluffs near the mill.

206.7  Monticello. Junction of U.S. Highway 163 with U.S. Highway 666 in Downtown Area. For a description of the geology to the north along U.S. Highway 160 and eastward along U.S. Highway 666 see HW-160.





from Field Guide: Northern Colorado Plateau by J. Keith Rigby - Purchase Information