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Why Are the Sedona Red Rocks, Red?

Author 04-02-2021

Have you ever wondered why the red rocks in Sedona are red in color? Red rocks are a staple of the western United State’s landscape, and can be found all over the region, including the Grand Canyon. Anyone who comes to Sedona to see the statuesque red rocks knows that the area’s geology is what makes it so appealing.

Sedona’s red rock formations help reflect the sunrise beautifully, enhance the sunsets’ glow, and make everything in between more remarkable. While many people appreciate the red rock formations, not many know how they got there. The story of the red rock is almost as beautiful as the formations themselves.

Sedona’s Red Rocks are so much more beautiful in person! Find a Sedona vacation rental today and book your trip to Red Rock Country!

What Sedona was like before the Red Rocks

Before the red-colored rocks turned into stone, the Sedona landscape was all mushy mud and sand. Over a 320 million-year period, changes in the environment helped transform the sand and mud into something more impressive than you could have envisioned. Sea levels rose and fell in massive levels during this 320 million-year time period, and with each rise and fall, the ocean water added different types of sediments to the already rich soil.

During each period of high sea-levels, the mud from the ocean would wash in from the ocean currents. When the water from the sea receded, the wind would accompany layers of sand that would stick to miniature, newly-forming rock formations. After years of this process happening repeatedly, the sediment lithified or transformed into hard rock.

How Sedona’s Red Rocks got their color

After 320 million years of changing ocean levels and the introduction of new sediments, the hard rock that began to form in Sedona had developed a thin layer of iron oxide (rust is an example of an iron oxide). This thin layer of iron oxide was caused by natural minerals’ chemical weathering and turned the rocks into their trademark red Sedona color.

Bonus: How Sedona’s Red Rock formations took shape

Check out some of our favorite hiking trails in Sedona to see these formations up close and personal!

At one point, there were over 1,900 feet of red rock covering Sedona. While we know how the red rock got there, how it developed into magnificent natural sculptures is a different story.

Over time, Oak Creek began to form, and the other rivers in the area began to erode and crumble up the rock. The rivers surrounding the Sedona area would carry parts of the eroded rock out to the ocean and leave behind the red rock works of art that we admire and cherish today. When viewing these monumental red rock formations, we look at the process of natural erosion right before our eyes.

Oak Creek, to this day, washes sand over the existing rock, smoothing it out with a natural polishing type process similar to what created the landmarks like Cathedral Rock and Thunder Mountain.

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