Fisher Towers, UT 2009
At the end of May, 2009; I took a group of students to Castle Valley, Utah to explore the Fisher Towers and raft down the Colorado River. Castle Valley is located about 32 km northeast of Moab, on Hwy 121, in southeastern Utah. Is one of the most scenic landscapes along the Colorado River.
Starting at Hittle Bottom, the unbelievable, picturesque scenery of the red rock canyons and soaring stone towers combines with the fun and excitement of the legendary Colorado River. There, I prepared my group for an adventure they wouldn’t forget.
Pictured below, calm waters on the first part of our journey provided relaxation and some time to learn about the unique geology of Castle Valley.
Pictured below, After we got accustomed to the river and ready for some fun, we heard whitewater just around the bend at Onion Creek Rapid.
The fun continued with Professor Creek and Cloudburst rapids with plenty of time to relax and swim in between.
Pictured below, our trip ended just below Rocky Rapid.
Additionally, we visited the Fisher Towers. The Fisher Towers are among the most outstanding scenic features of the Castle-Valley Colorado Riverway. These rock pinnacles soar above a maze of red and purple hued canyons.
The Fisher Towers are composed of the Organ Rock Tongue of the Cutler geologic formation capped by rock of the Moenkopi formation.
The Towers are isolated remnants of a 225 million year old floodplain deposit of the Uncompahgre highland, which was located in western Colorado and a mountainous region that formed at the beginning of the Pennsylvanian period (approximately 320 million years).
Rivers and streams flowing south from the Uncompahgre highland eroded, transported, and then deposited rock and sediment in channels and flood plains. By the end of the Permian period (250 million years ago), the Uncompahgre highland no longer existed; it had been reduced to low hills and plains.
The Colorado Plateau region was uplifted starting approximately 80 to 50 million years ago, and over the past several million years many of the existing erosional features of the Colorado Plateau were created, including canyons, mesas, buttes, arches, bridges, hoodoos, spires, pedestals, and towers.
At Fisher Towers, salt deposits underlying this region, buckled, warped, and collapsed. Subsequent erosion caused the formation of valleys and cliff escarpments.
The upper, darker part of Fisher Towers consists of the lower sandstone member of the Triassic Moenkopi Formation (approximately 245 million years old). The middle and lower parts of the towers are sandstone, mudstone, and conglomerate of the Permian Cutler Formation (approximately 290 million years old).
The Fisher Towers contains layers of sedimentary rock in various shades of red-brown, red-purple, and maroon. The colors are a result of varying amounts of hematite (an iron oxide).
The sandstone, more resistant to erosion than the softer underlying layers of the Cutler Formation, protects and preserves the soft rock underneath, creating rock pedestals. Therefore, the Moenkopi Formation has provided a resistant cap for some of Fisher Towers, allowing erosion to carve the awe inspiring spires and towers.
Although the crumbly texture of the towers offers less than ideal conditions, rock climbing is now relatively common in this area.
After rafting and exploring Castle Valley, the students wanted to spend the hot mid-day at the North Millcreek swimming hole. Moab’s indulgent swimming holes remained a “locals only” secret for a long time, but these enticing gems couldn’t stay underground forever. The North Fork of Mill Creek are perennial streams flowing from the alpine slopes of the La Sal Mountains. The walled-in forks where they meet, makes a spectacular hiking destination as a sandstone gorge even without the streams, but the amenity of water makes it truly irresistible. Babbling riffles and cascades feed a few calm pools that make perfect swimming holes up North Millcreek Canyon.
By following the trail past the powerhouse dam and into the canyon for about a 2 km, we found a natural waterfall that pours into a built-up pool that is secluded in an amphitheater of sandstone, (pictured above).
Once at the pool at North Millcreek Canyon Swimming, my students stretched out in the sun and I relaxed in the shade, on the rocks or in the water.
Fisher Towers and the country along the Colorado River have served as a scenic back drop for at least two dozen motion pictures, as well as videos and commercials. The Western style films Wagon Master, Against A Crooked Sky, The Comancheros, and Rio Conchos all featured views of Fisher Towers.