The Painted Desert

The south-western US state of Arizona has more than its fair share of stunning landscapes, natural phenomena and National Monuments. Best known is the Grand Canyon, but there are also numerous deserts, a petrified forest, extinct volcanoes and the huge Sunset Crater. Not surprisingly, it has featured as the backdrop to many Western movies.

The Painted Desert is a narrow, crescent-shaped arc about 160 miles long which begins near the Grand Canyon and varies in width from 10 to 35 miles. It is largely void of vegetation and years of erosion by wind and rain have exposed sedimentary layers of rock up to 250 million years old. Chemical differences in the various layers result in an effect not unlike a multicoloured layer cake with contrasting hues of red, orange and pink, blue, grey and lavender creating a silent and barren landscape which looks like it has been hand-painted. As with much of the planetís stunning landscapes all the observer can do is stand and stare.