The Valley of the Sun

   No other major city readily displays exciting geology and great landscapes like Phoenix. Why?
GEOLOGY -- The Valley of the Sun contains a wide variety of geologic features, including all of the major rock types, formations dating from extremely old to very recent, and some very unusual geologic structures. Phoenix and Scottsdale sit right in the middle of it all!
EXPOSURE -- The arid environment has created excellent exposure of not only the rock formations themselves, but also other physical features that make up the Valley.
VANTAGE POINTS -- A number of high-elevation points in and around the Valley, and their easy accessibility, allow for wonderful places from which to see these features. The lack of thick vegetation at such locations means no peering through the bushes or trees in order to see the sights.
SCENERY -- Desert weathering patterns and heat have created in this region a "look" that people coming from the world’s populous temperate climates find exotic and fascinating – the stuff of Hollywood movies relating the terrain of ancient Egypt, the Asian silk-route caravans, or those cowboy westerns that the world loves!
WEATHER -- Clear skies and good atmospheric conditions for hundreds of days a year make visibility great!
   The grandeur of the Phoenix area is a product of its location near the meeting place of two of the great geologic provinces of North America, indeed the world: the Basin and Range, and the unique Colorado Plateau.
   The Colorado Plateau, with its high, mostly flat-lying, colorful formations that are seen so well in the Grand Canyon, lies to the north and east. Between it and the metropolitan area is a relatively narrow transition zone of jumbled rocks and lava flows.
   On the floor of the great valleys at the base of these regions lie Phoenix and Scottsdale. Here and for hundreds of miles to the west, northwest, and south is the Basin and Range – a great rip and tear in the fabric of the Earth’s crust - where the rocks even now are being spread apart by immense forces of continental scale.
   Blasted through by ancient volcanoes, sliced by fault systems, and rich in mineral deposits, it is this province that gives our area its characteristic jagged mountains and spacious valleys.
   The digitized photograph below shows the approximate relationship of these three regions.

The three geologic provinces of Arizona.

The Desert Southwest of the United States.
Source of photo: NASA

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