Facts About the Red Rocks of Sedona


The Red Rocks of Sedona are located in Central Arizona within newly developed Red Rock State Park. Walkways and trails wind around impressive pinnacles of red sandstone rock. The presence of iron is responsible for the rock color and the redness is actually rust. Sedona and its surrounding area make for a genuine paradise for visitors.

Red Rock Mountain Dwellers

Sedona is rich with Native American history and is considered sacred land. Cliff dwellings, though abandoned many years ago, give visitors an insight into previous dwellers. A sub-culture of the Anasazi, known as the Sinagua, worked the land, hunted and gathered food from the canyon and beautiful valley nearby. The reason for their disappearance is unknown.

In the late 1800s, pioneers came to the area and formed a settlement of farmers and artists. To this day, energy vortexes or cosmic energy fields in this striking area of Red Rocks draws spiritual healers and New Age inspiration or motivation seekers.

Red Rock Geography

The red rocks are the main feature of Coconino National Forest, also part of Red Rock Secret Wilderness Mountains, maintained by the U.S. Forest Service. Millions of years of water and soil erosion caused the formation of monolithic majestic shapes as well as narrow, deep canyons surrounded by arches, buttes and cliffs. Iron oxide flowing in the erosive waters left warm shades of red as it washed over and through porous sandstone.

The high mountains contain thick Ponderosa pine forests that decline into an arid lowland desert. The valleys are rich with wildlife and vegetation. The rough land of this area provides a natural defense against the increasing volume of tourists and traffic.

Red Rock Backdrop

The development of this area traces its history back more than 320 million years when central Arizona lay under water in a sea of sorts. Sedona’s rocks have an initial layer made from shells of assorted sea creatures. As the sea dried, rivers formed and flowed, depositing sediment that erodes quite easily. Today, we call it red sandstone. The rivers deposited that sand in a delta that became Sedona.

Rocks from the ancient sea-to-land-to-river transformations are rich in color and form the backdrop for today’s city of Sedona, Arizona. Researchers offer an educated guess that approximately 1,900 feet of rock covers the entire area of Sedona.

Erosion Formations

Several million years ago, the Colorado Plateau experienced a sensation--most likely a complex earthquake. The crack that developed near Sedona got longer and wider. It made an appropriate route for flowing water over the last million, or so, years.

Erosion from the flowing water formed such wonders as Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Courthouse Rock and Coffee Pot Rock. Fortunately, a layer of limestone coats the rock formations, which is a preservative feature, making them erosion-resistant.

Time, Weather and the Red Rocks

The Red Rocks of Sedona have a base that traces back to sediment in a sea or flood plain as well as some that formed from sand blown in from dry land or coastal area beaches. A point of origin determines the variation in sand color. It ranges from bright orange to shades of red and some tan. White or gray rocks are also visible. Once quite colorful, the effect of limestone or flushing water might have drained the color.

Much can happen in a million years. Along with geological changes, there were also climate changes during that stretch of time. The Sedona area has been under water. It did emerge as a seacoast and then experienced transformation into a desert. Each change left a mark on the landscape of Sedona and its red rocks, a change that must be seen to be appreciated fully.

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