Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park lies about 8 miles (13 km) due west of Kanab, Utah, just north of the Utah/Arizona border. The sand is produced by the erosion of nearby outcroppings of the Navajo Sandstone, a well-known geological feature that originated as an immense desert of sand dunes covering much of modern day southeastern Utah and northeastern Arizona between 135 and 195 million years ago. Geological forces eventually welded the sand grains together, forming the petrified sand dunes that can be seen over much of the same area today.
But through the action of high winds interacting with a convenient geological feature many of the sand grains from these petrified dunes have been liberated to become free flowing sand dunes once again in the formation of the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. As mentioned above, the sand is derived from the erosion of the Navajo Sandstone. A gap in the mountains to the south and east of the dunes channels and accelerates winds that carry the sand to the current location of the dunes, which are dated as being between 10,000 to 15,000 years old.
The grains of sand, and the sandstone from which they are derived, are covered with a coating of hematite, which is one of the principle mineral forms of iron oxide. When exposed to oxygen, hematite takes on the characteristic reddish orange color of rusted metal. Because of this coating, the sand in the dunes displays this characteristic color. This is one of the most familiar colors seen throughout southern Utah and northern Arizona, all principally provided by the widespread presence of the Navajo Sandstone.
The Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is a wonderful place for photography, or hiking in a sublime environment. Unfortunately, at least in my opinion, it is also open as an off-road vehicle area. As a result, there is an almost constant hum, roar, and whine of various machines powered by internal combustion engines that speed over the dunes. While this activity would not seem to create any permanent damage to the dunes (winds erase tire marks on a nightly basis), it does destroy the solitude and beauty of the overall experience. But in spite of this feature, I'd still say that the Coral Pink Sand Dunes are a place worth visiting.
This photo was taken with a Canon EF 28-135 mm f/3.5 – 5.6 IS USM lens zoomed to 60 mm on a Canon EOS 5D Mk III. The exposure was set to 1/250 sec at f/8.0 and ISO 200.
To see more photos from my recent Utah trip, or read other blogs, visit www.chuckkopczakphotography.com.