Geology and Soils
The Canyonlands Research Center is located within sedimentary formations ranging in ages from Pennsylvanian to Cretaceous. A Tertiary granitic intrusion forms the core of the Abajo Mountains. Structurally, the area forms the boundary between the salt anticline and Monument Upwarp subsections of the Paradox Basin section of the Colorado Plateau. Local structure is relatively flat, with several areas of intense faulting and folding.
Regional soils range from rock strath terraces, alluvial fans, glacial moraines and talus slopes to eolian deposits and alluvium derived from sedimentary rock. Soils at lower elevations are largely derived in situ from sedimentary parent material, mostly coarse-textured. Local areas of eolian and alluvial soils occur where such processes are active. Shallow soils and exposed bedrock are widespread on lower elevation benches, rims, and escarpments. Deep soils occur on alluvial terraces, valley fills, and centers of large mesas. At lower elevations undisturbed ground surfaces are covered with biological soil crusts - aggregations of cyanobacteria, algae, lichens, and mosses that stabilize soils against wind and water erosion, enhance water infiltration, and fix atmospheric nitrogen.