One activity that always gets Steve’s blood flowing is airplane tours. Since he stopped flying several years ago so we could pursue our travels, he has missed it but he always jumps at a chance to watch a pro when we take an air tour. So I knew there would be no argument from him when I commented about how cool it would be to see the arches and canyons we had been visiting from the air.
We booked the Arches and Canyonlands tour through Redwing Aviation at Moab airport. On our tour day, winds were particularly high, over 40mph, and we knew it would be a bumpy ride. However, the pilots were ready to go so we could hardly back out. After all, we had been through many bumps during our flying years!
Capturing the arches, fins and other intriguing rock formations below as the plane jumped around was very challenging. But in hindsight I think keeping busy taking pictures alleviated any motion sickness we may have felt. The other couple with us didn’t fare so well; the poor woman was sick throughout the flight and she got no pictures, relying on her husband to get them all – and he was looking a bit green himself!
We first flew over Arches NP, then Canyonlands NP during our hour and fifteen minute flight. We gained a new perspective of both Parks’ awe-inspiring landscape, and seeing the geology of the area from above really showed how large areas were created in their own unique ways.
Because of the bouncy ride my aerial photos are not the best. I included some pictures taken at ground level to show how some formations looked from both perspectives.
According to geologists, Arches National Park lies atop an underground salt bed that is responsible for the sandstone arches, spires, balanced rocks, fins and eroded monoliths.
To show the sheer walls of just one of those sandstone fins, here’s Steve gawking at Private Arch up-close:
When we headed over Canyonlands NP, it felt like we were looking down at another planet with all its interesting patterns and textures:
Canyonlands is home to a scenic mosaic of mesas, plateaus, and canyons with profound geologic and archeological significance. Its centerpiece is the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers.
The Y-shaped river system dissects the park into three equally enchanting and distinct sections:
To the west of the rivers is known as the Maze – rugged, remote and the least accessible. And because of its remoteness the Maze made a great hideout for the notorious Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch. It has been called one of the most remote and unreachable regions in the U.S. You don’t want to get lost out here!
From the air one can see a tangled web of dry stream beds and passages between spires, knobs and canyons described as the “30-square-mile puzzle in sandstone”:
In the southeast corner are spires, pinnacles, and grabens that formed the Needles district. The dominant landforms are the “needles”, rock pinnacles banded in red and white that stand upright in a tangled formation:
On the ground, an enigmatic 1.6 mile-wide circular depression known as Upheaval Dome can be viewed by taking a short hike from an overlook:
Canyonlands is a wild and rugged showcase of sedimentary geology.
For a geologic explanation of Canyonlands NP, click here.
To learn why there are so many arches in Arches NP, click here.
After what seemed like endless jarring and bumping around, we were glad to get back on the ground. Steve said the turbulence was light to moderate, but it seemed pretty severe to me! Despite the feeling of discomfort during the flight, it was worth it and we enjoyed our new perspective of this amazing place.