Zion Canyon Was Shaped by a Colossal Landslide

BEACON TRANSCRIPTZion Canyon was shaped by a colossal landslide, researchers say. Zion National Park is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States of America. Scientists have now come up with a theory suggesting that its shape is the result of a massive landslide that occurred approximately 4,800 years ago.

"Zion Canyon"

Zion National Park is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful national parks in the USA.

A team of researchers from the University of Utah revealed that Zion Canyon’s floor was created due to Virgin River’s damming. This was the result of a Utah mountainside collapse which took place thousands of years ago.

According to Dr. Jeff Moore, assistant professor at the University of Utah, the rock avalanche was so grand that it buried an area similar in size to the Central Park (New York).

Scientists believe that the colossal rockslide had a 286 million cubic meter volume, making it one of the largest non-volcanic landslides in the United States of America. To determine the volume, a computer was used to recreate what the national park looked like before the landslide. Additionally, researchers also reconstructed the top surface of the pre-erosion landslide.

The analysis consisted of three phases. First, the scientists had to determine the volume of the rockslide. Then, they measured quantities of beryllium-10 in the surface rock. Researchers sampled twelve boulders from the landslide’s surface and crushed the samples to analyze their beryllium-10 content.

Finally, all the data had to be put into the 3D modeling systems.

The computer simulations revealed that the massive landslide swept the national park in just 20 seconds, which means that Zion Canyon was shaped by a colossal landslide at speeds up to 200 miles per hour. The effect of the cataclysm is the paradise-looking canyon that gets visited by more than 3.6 million people each year.

This geological event had such a lasting impact because of its effect on the Virgin River. The rock avalanche dammed the river, thus creating a lake that lasted about 700 years. This lake shaped the valley floor into what we see today: a flat, sediment covered floor.

The study is the first to date the landslide, also revealing its size and dynamics. A paper on the research was published in the Geological Society of America journal, GSA Today.