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Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon

The limestone spires that make up Utah's Bryce Canyon National Park attract visitors from across the world.

Thor's Hammer stands tall among the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.
Photo caption
Thor's Hammer stands tall among the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.

What made Utah’s Bryce Canyon a national park and an international attraction? It’s the hoodoos—thousands of surreal, multihued limestone spires up to 150 feet tall that are part National Geographic, part Salvador Dalí. Crammed together like high-rises in a desert metropolis about halfway between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, the hoodoos inspire imagination, contemplation, and the overpowering urge to reach for a camera.

The word hoodoo is a common synonym for voodoo, but in the world of geology it refers to a multilayered rock pillar shaped over eons by erosion.

Hasty names?
Thors Hammer still looks like a mallet, but the elements have de-poodlefied the Poodle, and one of the Three Wise Men lost his head in recent decades.

According to Paiute folklore, the hoodoos formed when a god called Coyote turned the Legend People to stone for taking more than their share of water and pine nuts from the surrounding land.

Bryce Canyon isn’t a canyon at all, but a series of amphitheaters up to 1,000 feet deep, stretching some 20 miles. The land has been carved by weather—rain, snow, freezes, and thaws—not a river.

Photography by Luca Galuzzi/courtesy

This article was first published in November 2011. Some facts maybe have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.