An astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) took this photograph of the Colorado River in southeastern Utah. The river drains a sizable portion of the Rocky Mountain Range and provides water resources to more than 40 million people across seven U.S. states and northern Mexico.
The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in both Utah and Arizona is characterized by high desert with white to reddish-brown sandstone cliffs of interbedded limestone, which is common in the southwestern United States. About five million years ago, the river began carving into these sedimentary rocks, exposing bedrock that dates back approximately 300 million years. This carving, or fluvial erosion, occurred simultaneously with tectonic uplift (the rising of the landmass).
The Colorado River now lies in its meandering canyon, which includes a dry, relict oxbow. Uplift has raised parts of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area as high as 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level. The interbedded limestone includes marine fossils from a variety of shallow aquatic environments of the past, such as lagoons and deltas.
Astronaut photograph ISS067-E-175591 was acquired on July 4, 2022, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 400 millimeters. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 67 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by Amber Turner, Jacobs, JETS Contract at NASA-JSC.