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The Colorado National Monument preserves one of the grand landscapes of the American West. The monument is named after the river rather than the state, and covers a relatively small area of eroded red rock formations and canyons just south of the Colorado River near Grand Junction. This town, near the Utah border, is surrounded in most directions by impressive multi-colored rocks; the orange/brown layered Book Cliffs dominate the town from the north, and extend westward for nearly 200 miles to the Manti-la-Sal mountains of central Utah. Immediately southwest of the town, tributaries of the Colorado River have carved through the edge of the high Uncompahgre Plateau that borders the Colorado for some distance, but only the most scenic area, about 10 by 5 miles, is within the national monument. It contains four main canyons, cutting into the plateau for several miles, with several smaller ravines, isolated towers and pinnacles, and many other rock formations.
This sunrise view from Monument Canyon View, on the west side of the monument right off Rim Rock Drive, shows part of Monument Canyon and its associated trails, with spectacular spires and sculptures of Wingate sandstone. (Wingate layers are typically pale orange to red in color, the remnants of wind-born sand dunes deposited approximately 200 million years ago.) Many of these monoliths are named, such as the “Kissing Couple” (foreground, center left), mammoth “Independence Monument” (just behind it, to the right), with “Pipe Organ,” “Sentinel Spire,” and other formations behind it. These towering remnants from another age stand hundreds of feet above the canyon floor. In the grand valley beyond lies the Colorado River and the town of Fruita, just west of Grand Junction. This view was recorded precisely at sunrise one summer day, when the sun’s first rays turned the landscape an incomparable pink color that lasted but a minute.
Colorado National Monument
The photo was made using a Canon EOS 50D digital body, EF 50mm f/2.5 compact macro lens (or full frame equivalent of 80mm), at f/13 for 1/3 second at 100 ISO.