Colorado River and Lake Powell

Colorado River and Lake Powell

The Colorado Plateau spans northern Arizona, southern Utah, northwestern New Mexico, and southwestern Colorado. This physiographic province is well known for its striking landscapes and broad vistas—an impression that is enhanced by the view from the orbital perspective of the International Space Station. This astronaut photograph highlights part of the Utah-Arizona border region of the Plateau, and includes several prominent landforms.

The Colorado River, dammed to form Lake Powell in 1963, crosses from east to west (which is left to right here because the astronaut was looking south; north is towards the bottom of the image). The confluence of the Colorado and San Juan Rivers is also visible. Sunglint—sunlight reflected off a water surface back towards the observer—provides a silvery, mirror-like sheen to some areas of the water surfaces.

The geologic uplift of the Colorado Plateau led to rapid downcutting of rivers into the flat sedimentary bedrock, leaving spectacular erosional landforms. One such feature, The Rincon, preserves evidence of a former meander bend of the Colorado River.

Snow cover blankets the higher elevations of Navajo Mountain, a large body of igneous rock that intruded into pre-existing sedimentary rock layers and bowed them upwards into a structural dome. Snow also caps the highland surface of the Kaiparowits Plateau (approximately 2,300 meters or 7500 feet in elevation). The bulk of Navajo Mountain and the Kaiparowits Plateau are within the state of Utah; the town of Page is located just south of the border in Arizona.

Astronaut photograph ISS034-E-66804 was acquired on March 12, 2013, with a Nikon D2Xs digital camera using a 180millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 34 crew. It 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 William L. Stefanov, Jacobs/ESCG at NASA-JSC.