Published: May 2005

Wide Wild West

Bryce Canyon

State of Rock

Time carves stone into spires on the Colorado Plateau, spread across four states, where wind, water, and weird rule.

By Mike Edwards
Photograph by Frans Lanting

Bizarre. Is that the right word for the Colorado Plateau, this thirsty sprawl of gaudy-hued stone festooned with such names as Hell Roaring Canyon, Scorpion Gulch, and Horsethief Point?

Edward Abbey began his classic Desert Solitaire with the simple "This is the most beautiful place on earth." Fiery rock can do that to a man. Others trying to understand the seductive pull of the plateau country apply adjectives like "amazing" and "awesome." Which aren't incorrect, merely inadequate. In truth, a single adjective may not suffice. All the same, as I fly over the plateau on a May morning, looking down on whalebacks of slickrock, on crashing waves of rock, on minarets and pyramids of rock hewn by water and wind—how could any word fit better than "bizarre"? Especially in Utah, the bizarrest precinct of this Great State of Rock, which is almost as big as three Ohios and sprawls into Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.

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