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Researchers Say Meteorite Impact Created Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands National Park

NPS photo

German researchers claim Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands National Park is simply the remains of a crater caused by the impact of a meteor. NPS Photo.

For decades folks have debated what created Upheaval Dome in Canyonlands National Park.

Was it the result of a salt dome that collapsed? Could it have been from the impact of a meteor? How about a giant sinkhole?

Well, some German researchers claim they've solved the mystery.

Their vote is for a meteor.

Elmar Buchner and Thomas Kenkmann say the key to their finding was tiny grains of "shocked quartz" -- basically, quartz that has a different microscopic structure from normal quartz due to undergoing extreme pressure of some sort -- that was created by the impact.

Now, while Canyonlands officials have raised the possibility that a meteor created the dome, which is in the Island in the Sky District, they've also said erosion has washed away any evidence of such a cataclysmic impact. The two Germans, though, say they found the quartz grains off to the side of the crater, not in the middle, a finding that suggests the meteor collided at an angle.

You can find a story about their findings at Discovery News.

Now, if you want to see Upheaval Dome in person, head to the Island in the Sky District, and once there head to the aptly named Upheaval Dome Overlook Trail. It's a short (roughly 1 mile to the first overlook), easy hike. And after you've viewed the dome, take the kids to play atop Whale Rock, from which you also can view the dome.


Boy, talk about finding a needle in a hay (salt) stack. Geologists have been hunting for coesite and stishovite evidence at Upheaval Dome for years to no avail. Finding shock quartz in Jurassic sandstones fills an important part of Upheaval Domes puzzle. The paper will make an interesting read. Great News!

This is a cool find! I was just up there this past summer. Glad to see some research taking place in the park, and being published too!!

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