This tiny part of the Colorado Plateau has been evolving for ten million years. It used to be a massive freshwater lake with colourful minerals being washed into the lake, then settled into layers. Iron contributes reds and yellows, while manganese brings pink and violet to the party. Later the water disappeared and the multicoloured Claron Formation remained. Then came erosion.
Although the area only gets about 18 inches of precipitation a year, the water enters cracks in rocks, freezes, expands and drives cracks further apart, eventually breaking. Rain – which is naturally acidic – dissolves limestone, washes away debris and cuts gullies, which develop into narrow walls of rock called fins. Fins then acquire holes which grow until the roof collapses and – bingo! – a new hoodoo is born.
On Bryce’s Navajo Loop trail, down below the rim for a very different viewpoint.
Bryce Canyon’s main global competitor is probably Turkey’s ‘fairy chimneys’ in Cappadocia which are less shapely, less colourful, more commercial and crisscrossed with roads – though they do have historical interest in that they were used as fortress housing many years ago.