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The Colorado Plateau

The Vast and the Intimate
Suspended in Time
A Textbook of Geomorphology


New Mexico


Aquarius Plateau, Utah
Arches NP, Utah
Arizona Strip
Black Mesa, Arizona
Canyon de Chelly, Arizona
Canyonlands NP, Utah
Chaco Canyon, New Mexico
Chuska Mountains, New Mexico
Dinosaur NM, Colorado/Utah
Glen Canyon/Lake Powell, Utah/Arizona
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Grand Canyon-Parashant NM, Arizona
Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah
Upper Gunnison Basin, Colorado
Kaibab Plateau, Arizona
La Sal Mountains, Utah
Lees Ferry, Arizona
Little Colorado River, Arizona
Mesa Verde, Colorado
Mogollon Rim, Arizona
San Francisco Peaks, Arizona
White Mountains, Arizona
Wupatki/Sunset Crater, Arizona
Zion NP, Utah

PlacesLa Sal Mountains, Utah

La Sal Mountains

Mt. Peale and Mt. Mellenthin tower above Geyser basin. Photo 1977 Ray Wheeler.

The La Sal Mountains are located on the eastern border of Utah, about 15 miles east of Moab [map]. Rising over 7000 feet above the surrounding redrock canyons and mesas, the La Sals include the highest peak on the Colorado Plateau, 12,721 foot Mt. Peale, and several other lower but prominent peaks. The range occupies a relatively small area, running just 15 miles north to south and 6 miles across. The La Sals are administered by the U.S.D.A. as the Manti-Lasal National Forest.

The La Sals are composed of granitic rock, uncommon on the Colorado Plateau. The range is a classic laccolith poking up above the surrounding thick sequences of ancient sedimentary rocks. Biotic communities in the mountains range from widely scattered stands of ponderosa pine, up through quaking aspen forests and subalpine grasslands, into spruce and fir forests (as in photo above), and finally alpine tundra. The range is one of only three areas on the Colorado Plateau where one can see alpine tundra communities.

The Manti-Lasal is the largest coal producing National Forest in the nation as well as a source of timber products, other minerals, oil and gas as well as non-commercial products like Christmas trees, posts and poles, firewood, seeds, and edible plants.

Livestock grazing occurs throughout much of the La Sal high country. The range's rich grass-forb meadows serve as forage for cattle during the summer months. In recent years many of the forest's Engelmann spruce stands have suffered severe spruce beetle infestation and damage. Intensive off-road vehicle use has also created management problems for the forest.