Wednesday, January 3, 2018

What is the Colorado Plateau?

Encompassing 240,000 square miles (386,242 km) including the transition zones, the Colorado Plateau stretches across four states; Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico as well as many Tribal Nations too. 

Ancient volcanic craters, plugs and mountains, mesas and buttes, amazingly deep canyons, and most every ecosystem you can imagine can be found upon the Plateau. Elevations for this large area starts at about 610 m (2,000 ft) above sea level, with plateau tops ranging from  1,534 to 2,134 km (5,000 to 7,000 ft) and mountaintops reaching nearly 3,960 km (13,000 ft).  About 90% of the area is drained by the Colorado River and its main tributaries: the Green, San Juan, and Little Colorado. Most of the remainder of the plateau is drained by the Rio Grande and its tributaries.


The Colorado Plateau has been continuously inhabited by native people of the Americas for approximately 12,000 years. Today, the native peoples of the Colorado Plateau include the Hopi, Diné (Navajo), Zuni, Hualapai, Havasupai, Ute, Apache, and Southern Paiute Nations. 
The Colorado Plateau also has the greatest concentration of U.S. National Park Service (NPS) units in the country outside the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Among its nine National Parks are Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Arches, Mesa Verde, and Petrified Forest. Among its 18 National Monuments are Bears Ears, Rainbow Bridge, Dinosaur, Hovenweep, Wupatki, Sunset Crater Volcano, Walnut Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Natural Bridges, Canyons of the Ancients, Chaco Culture National Historical Park and the Colorado National Monument.
From time to time on this page we will focus in on the various sciences of the Plateau, including Plateau Geology, Paleontology, Hydrology and Habitats.
Map of the Colorado Plateau Boundary
Map Courtesy of Ron Blakey, NAU Geology

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