Arizona’s Incredible Painted Desert

Painted DesertPhoto: Fundenburg

Stretching over 160 miles, from the border of the Grand Canyon to the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert of Arizona is a majestic natural beauty. For a state known for its deserts and dry weather, the Painted Desert shows that there are not only rattlesnakes and cacti in Arizona, but also a range of fantastically surreal colored mountains.

Painted DesertPhoto: Unknown

Painted DesertPhoto: Fundenburg

The Painted Desert has been created by millions of years of the plates of the earth shifting, and the changes in sea level. The desert is mainly composed of erodible siltstone, mudstone, and shale, with traces dating back as far as 255 million years ago. Due to all the changes the environment has gone through over the years, some accounted for, others unknown, the desert was once probably a normal range of low level, or underwater, mountains but came out looking like something Pablo Picasso or Dalie might have imagined.

Painted DesertPhoto: Joyrados

Painted DesertPhoto: Doug Dolde

Although the majority of the desert is less inhabited than it once was, there are still a few parts of the desert that serve as home to some groups of people, such as members of the Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni tribes.

Scientists have found traces of early human habitation in the area, as well as fossils of prehistoric plants and animals and dinosaur tracks.

Painted Desert Aerial ViewPhoto: Doc Searls

Spanish colonizers came to the area during their colonization of the Americas, and gave it the name ‘El Desierto Pintado’ (‘The Painted Desert’), as it is still known today, due to the extraordinary color of the landscape.