Upheaval Dome

Coordinates: 38°26′13″N 109°55′45″W / 38.43694°N 109.92917°W / 38.43694; -109.92917
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Upheaval Dome
Oblique aerial view of Upheaval Dome, 2012
Impact crater/structure
Diameter10 km (6.2 mi)
Age<170 Ma
Middle Jurassic or younger
LocationCanyonlands National Park
Coordinates38°26′13″N 109°55′45″W / 38.43694°N 109.92917°W / 38.43694; -109.92917
Country United States
DistrictSan Juan County
Upheaval Dome is located in the United States
Upheaval Dome
Location of Upheaval Dome in Utah
Upheaval Dome is located in Utah
Upheaval Dome
Upheaval Dome (Utah)

Upheaval Dome is an enigmatic geological structure in San Juan County, Utah, United States, that has been variously interpreted as a meteorite impact structure or a salt dome. The structure lies 22 miles (35 km) southwest of the city of Moab, Utah, in the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park.


Aerial orthophoto, 2011. Note scale at lower right.

Upheaval Dome is approximately 6.2 mi (10 km) in diameter and the crater is known to be less than 170 million years old (Jurassic or younger, but how much younger is not established.) The crater is clearly visible on the surface as light and dark brown concentric rings.

Stratigraphically, the oldest formation exposed in the center of the dome is the Permian Organ Rock Shale. This is overlain by the Permian White Rim Sandstone. Both are sometimes considered part of the Cutler Formation. Overlying these are the Triassic Moenkopi Formation (which is bounded top and bottom by unconformities), the Chinle Formation, the cliff-forming Wingate Sandstone, the Kayenta Formation, and the crossbedded Triassic-Jurassic Navajo Sandstone.[1]

Structurally, the dome is anomalous. Most of the rock strata of Canyonlands National Park are flat-lying or gently dipping with the exception of a series of linear salt walls and associated synclines. Upheaval Dome is a circular, dome-shaped structure. Some strata near the center are nearly vertical in orientation. Dips of 70 degrees have been measured in the Kayenta Formation on the U-shaped plateau surrounding the center of the structure. A syncline surrounds the center, where the axis forms a complete circle approximately two miles across. The syncline is primarily visible in the Navajo Sandstone. Another anticline has been mapped to the north of this ring syncline, which is also concentric with it.[1]

There were two well-known theories as to the origin of the upheaval. One theory was the upheaval is a salt dome, an anticlinal structure which occurs when a salt diapir is pushed up by the weight of overlying rocks.

The other theory is an eroded impact crater, like the much younger Meteor Crater near Winslow, Arizona. In the 1990s, a team of geologists and seismologists from NASA and the University of Nevada at Reno performed a detailed study that included seismic refraction and rock mapping. The results of this study support the meteorite theory.[2][3] In 2008, it was announced that shocked quartz was discovered,[4] although this was very limited and the origin remains unresolved.


Panoramic photo of the dome taken from the second overlook point on the Upheaval Dome overlook trail


  1. ^ a b Geologic Map of Canyonlands National Park and Vicinity, Utah, 1982 Edition, by P. W. Huntoon et al. Scale: 1:62500 (map)
  2. ^ Earth Impact DB - Upheaval Dome
  3. ^ Kriens, Bryan J; Eugene M Shoemaker; Ken E Herkenhop (1998-04-16). "Geology of the Upheaval Dome Impact Structure, Southeast Utah" (PDF). NASA JPL. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-05-01. Retrieved 2009-10-01.
  4. ^ O'Hanlon, Larry (2008-03-11). "Utah Crater Mystery Cracked". Discovery News. Discovery Channel. Archived from the original on 2012-11-30. Retrieved 2009-10-01.

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