Painted Desert (Arizona)

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Painted Desert
Painteddesert1.JPG
Name origin: (Colonial Spanish, 1540)
El Desierto Pintado[1]
CountryUnited States
StateArizona
Part ofColorado Plateau [2]
Borders onLittle Colorado and Puerco rivers
PartsLittle Painted Desert County Park
(north of Winslow)
Coordinates35°30′01″N 110°05′02″W / 35.50028°N 110.08389°W / 35.50028; -110.08389 [1]
Area7,500 sq mi (19,425 km2)
Relief map showing arc-shaped desert north and northeast of Mogollon Plateau and Mogollon Rim.
 
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Coordinates: 35°30′01″N 110°05′02″W / 35.50028°N 110.08389°W / 35.50028; -110.08389
Painted Desert
Painteddesert1.JPG
Name origin: (Colonial Spanish, 1540)
El Desierto Pintado[1]
CountryUnited States
StateArizona
Part ofColorado Plateau [2]
Borders onLittle Colorado and Puerco rivers
PartsLittle Painted Desert County Park
(north of Winslow)
Coordinates35°30′01″N 110°05′02″W / 35.50028°N 110.08389°W / 35.50028; -110.08389 [1]
Area7,500 sq mi (19,425 km2)
Relief map showing arc-shaped desert north and northeast of Mogollon Plateau and Mogollon Rim.

The Painted Desert is a United States desert of badlands in the Four Corners area[2] from the Grand Canyon National Park into the Petrified Forest National Park. Much of the area within the Petrified Forest National Park is protected as the Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area.[3] Much of the Painted Desert region is within the Navajo Nation.

Geology[edit]

The desert is composed of stratified layers of easily erodible siltstone, mudstone, and shale of the Triassic Chinle Formation. These fine grained rock layers contain abundant iron and manganese compounds which provide the pigments for the various colors of the region. Thin resistant lacustrine limestone layers and volcanic flows cap the mesas. Numerous layers of silicic volcanic ash occur in the Chinle and provide the silica for the petrified logs of the area. The erosion of these layers has resulted in the formation of the badlands topography of the region.[4][5][6]

In the southern portions of the desert the remains of a Triassic period coniferous forest have fossilized over millions of years. Wind, water and soil erosion continue to change the face of the landscape by shifting sediment and exposing layers of the Chinle Formation. An assortment of fossilized prehistoric plants and animals are found in the region, as well as dinosaur tracks and the evidence of early human habitation.

Area and climate[edit]

The Painted Desert extends roughly from CameronTuba City southeast to past Holbrook and the Petrified Forest National Park. The desert is about 120 miles (190 km) long by about 60 miles (97 km) wide, making it roughly 7,500 square miles (19,425 km2) in area.[7] Bordering southwest and south is the Mogollon Plateau, and on the plateau's south border the Mogollon Rim, the north border of the Arizona transition zone.

Owing to the strong rain shadow of the Mogollon Rim, the Painted Desert has a cold desert climate (Köppen BWk), with hot, dry summers and cold, though virtually snow-free, winters. The annual precipitation is the lowest in northern Arizona and in many places is lower even than Phoenix.[8]

Climate data for Tuba City, Arizona (1971 to 2000)
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Record high °F (°C)76
(24)
76
(24)
84
(29)
94
(34)
100
(38)
110
(43)
110
(43)
108
(42)
103
(39)
92
(33)
80
(27)
71
(22)
110
(43)
Average high °F (°C)45.4
(7.4)
53.0
(11.7)
60.1
(15.6)
68.3
(20.2)
77.7
(25.4)
88.8
(31.6)
93.4
(34.1)
90.7
(32.6)
83.4
(28.6)
71.9
(22.2)
56.3
(13.5)
46.0
(7.8)
69.6
(20.9)
Daily mean °F (°C)33.8
(1)
39.7
(4.3)
46.2
(7.9)
53.2
(11.8)
62.5
(16.9)
72.2
(22.3)
78.0
(25.6)
75.8
(24.3)
68.2
(20.1)
56.4
(13.6)
43.2
(6.2)
33.8
(1)
55.3
(12.9)
Average low °F (°C)22.2
(−5.4)
26.4
(−3.1)
32.2
(0.1)
38.0
(3.3)
47.2
(8.4)
55.5
(13.1)
62.5
(16.9)
60.9
(16.1)
53.0
(11.7)
40.8
(4.9)
30.0
(−1.1)
21.5
(−5.8)
40.9
(4.9)
Record low °F (°C)−15
(−26)
−9
(−23)
5
(−15)
13
(−11)
10
(−12)
30
(−1)
34
(1)
40
(4)
20
(−7)
11
(−12)
−4
(−20)
−13
(−25)
−15
(−26)
Precipitation inches (mm)0.55
(14)
0.52
(13.2)
0.59
(15)
0.27
(6.9)
0.32
(8.1)
0.17
(4.3)
0.66
(16.8)
0.69
(17.5)
0.98
(24.9)
0.85
(21.6)
0.43
(10.9)
0.32
(8.1)
6.35
(161.3)
Snowfall inches (cm)0.8
(2)
0.8
(2)
0.1
(0.3)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.0
(0)
0.9
(2.3)
2.6
(6.6)
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 inch)4.23.65.32.33.22.36.36.84.74.13.13.649.5
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 inch)0.60.40.10.00.00.00.00.00.00.00.00.01.1
Source: [9]

Accessibility[edit]

Much of the region is accessible only by foot or unpaved road though major highways and paved roads cut across the area. The towns of Cameron and Tuba City, both within the Navajo Nation, are two major settlements. A permit is required for all backroad travel in the Navajo Nation.[10]

Gallery[edit]

A panoramic view of Little Painted Desert County Park as seen from Highway 87.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Painted Desert". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. February 8, 1980. Retrieved May 5, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Jaeger, Edmund C. The North American Deserts.  (cited by Trimble The Sagebrush Ocean, p. 10)
  3. ^ Wilderness camping at NPS
  4. ^ Chronic, Halka, Pages of Stone: Geology of Grand Canyon & Plateau Country National Parks & Monuments, Mountaineers Books; 2nd ed., 2004, pp. 131–34 ISBN 978-0-89886-680-3
  5. ^ Baars, Donald L., Navajo Country, University of New Mexico Press, 1995 pp. 47–53 ISBN 0-8263-1587-9
  6. ^ Baars, Donald L., The Colorado Plateau: a Geologic History, University of New Mexico Press, 1983, pp. 163–68 ISBN 0-8263-0599-7
  7. ^ "Grand Canyon and Other Spectacular Sights in Arizona", on-the-matrix.com, [1]
  8. ^ Arizona Annual Precipitation Map
  9. ^ "Tuba City, AZ". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved March 27, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Travel Navajo Nation". Navajo Nation Parks & Recreation. Retrieved May 5, 2013. 

External links[edit]