The checkered past of Checkerboard Mesa
We rolled up to Zion National Park, Utah and you couldn’t help but notice this huge, cone-shaped mountain right in front of your face, looking like it’s been pressed in a waffle making machine. It is Checkerboard Mesa, most notably a very pronounced mountain composed of Navajo Sandstone, but the immediate area is only 1 of many which exhibit the signs that make it so interesting. This particular mountain seems to be the most spectacular of all of the surrounding mountainsides. You will see these “crisscross” patterns wrapping the mountain and wonder “how did these boxes form?” It’s very weird. Well the sandstone, that Checkerboard Mesa is composed of, formed when the wind blew the loose sand here, and over time, dunes formed in this place. When the sand would then gather, it began to bond together by the process of combined iron oxide and calcite giving us the sandstone, and since it was Navajo country, we now call it Navajo Sandstone. The winds would rip through this area so much and so hard, carving out the patterns (called ‘Cross bedding‘) seen on the face of the mountains- well at least the horizontal lines can be explained that way. The vertical lines are formed entirely independent of this. The vertical line is formed by the centuries of erosion, gravity and normal surface impact on the face of the mountain, just like your face. Actually, it’s like your face, as you wet it, dry it, it gets tight in cold weather but loosens in hot weather, that’s the same thing that happens to the face of these mountains’ rocks and that stress creates the cracks. So the combination of these two factors makes up the checkered formation that intrigues all who see it. It’s a natural marvel!