What’s in the name?
Kayenta is an ancient people, a region, a geological formation and today, a place in the corner of southwestern Utah.
The Kayenta People
(kah-YEN-tah) A regional group of the Anasazi, named for the region around Kayenta. The Kayenta Anasazi are ancestors of the Hopi, who prefer to call the area “Wunuqa.”
The Kayenta Region
Largest of the Anasazi regions, Kayenta spreads across northern Arizona into southern Utah and southwestern Colorado. Bounded on the south by the Grand Canyon and the Little Colorado River Valley, it extends up the Colorado River through Glen Canyon to the junction with the Fremont River. Some researchers call the western part of the region Virgin Kayenta, for the Virgin River in southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona.
The Kayenta Geological Formation
The red and mauve Kayenta siltstones and sandstones that form the slopes at base of the Navajo Sandstone cliffs record the record of low to moderate energy streams. Poole (1997) has shown that the streams still flowed toward the east depositing from 150 to 210 m (500 to about 700 feet) of sediment here. The sedimentary structures showing the channel and flood plain deposits of streams are well exposed on switchbacks below the tunnel in Pine Creek Canyon.
In the southeastern part of Zion Park a stratum of cross-bedded sandstone is found roughly halfway between the top and bottom of the Kayenta Formation. It is a “tongue” of sandstone that merges with the Navajo formation east of Kanab, and it shows that desert conditions occurred briefly in this area during Kayenta time. This tongue is the ledge that shades the lower portion of the Emerald Pool Trail, and it is properly called Navajo, not Kayenta.
Fossil mud cracks attest to occasional seasonal climate, and thin limestones and fossilized trails of aquatic snails or worms mark the existence of ponds and lakes. The most interesting fossils, however, are the dinosaur tracks that are relatively common in Kayenta mudstone.
These vary in size, but all seem to be the tracks of three-toed reptiles that walked upright, leaving their tracks in the muds on the flood plains. Unfortunately, so far no bone materials have been found in the County that would enable more specific identification.
Apparently during Kayenta time, Zion was situated in a climatic belt like that of Senegal with rainy summers and dry winters at the southern edge of a great desert. The influence of the desert was about to predominate, however, as North America drifted northward into the arid desert belt.
The Kayenta Formation is a geologic layer in the Glen Canyon Group that is spread across the Colorado Plateau province of the United States, including northern Arizona, northwest Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. This rock formation is particularly prominent in southeastern Utah, where it is seen in the main attractions of a number of national parks and monuments. These include Zion National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, the San Rafael Swell, and Canyonlands National Park. The Kayenta Formation frequently appears as a thinner dark broken layer below Navajo Sandstone and above Wingate Sandstone (all three formations are in the same group). Together, these three formations can result in immense vertical cliffs of 2,000 feet (610 m) or more. Kayenta layers are typically red to brown in color, forming broken ledges.
The Kayenta Desert Community
The Kayenta Community, in southern Utah’s red rock country, is a tranquil enclave surrounded by protected lands. A 2,000 acre master planned community of fine homes, custom building sites and community amenities, is located 7 miles west of St. George, Utah. Kayenta is a unique departure from the norm, focused on moderate land use, moderate-sustainable growth, and an appreciation for our magnificent natural setting. Nearby, residents find adventure in the southwest’s abundance of places to explore. Zion National Park, Snow Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Park are within view. While just beyond the horizon, adventure seekers will discover places like the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell and Las Vegas.