• View of the Mittens rock formations in Monument Valley, 1950s. Courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society via Mountain West Digital Library.

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    Monument Valley
    • Date
    • 1950-1960
    • Creator
    • Morton, Al Watkins
    • Description
    • C-337b. View of the Mittens rock formations in Monument Valley.
    • Rights
    • Online access. Reproduction and use by permission from Utah State History.
    • Partner
    • Mountain West Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Utah State Historical Society

  • "Man Points to Mountain Top." Courtesy of the Uintah County (UT) Library via Mountain West Digital Library.

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    Man Points to Mountain Top
    • Description
    • An unknown man is pointing at the rugged mountains with a very high mountain peak.
    • Rights
    • Digital Image, copyright 2008 Uintah County Library
    • Partner
    • Mountain West Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Uintah County (UT) Library

  • Front of carte-de-visite view of Zion National Park, Utah, 1860s. Courtesy of the University of Utah - J. Willard Marriott Library via Mountain West Digital Library.

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    Zion
    • Date
    • 1861-1870
    • Creator
    • C. R. Savage (Charles Roscoe Savage and George Ottinger), Pioneer Art Gallery, East Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah
    • Description
    • Front of carte-de-visite.
    • Rights
    • This material may be protected by copyright. Permission required for use in any form. For further information please contact the Multimedia Archives, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.
    • Partner
    • Mountain West Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • University of Utah - J. Willard Marriott Library

The Mountain West is divided into three distinct geological regions: the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado Plateau, and the Great Basin, each with its own unique attributes. The area was created through intense volcanic and uplift activity whereby the mountains were pushed violently through the surrounding layers of the Earth’s crust. Volcanic activity still exists in the area of Yellowstone National Park, which is a “supervolcano” that could cause eruptions thousand times those of a typical volcano. It is consistently monitored for seismic activity.

The area went through many changes during the ice ages when glaciers carved the landscape. Large ice sheets covered some portions of land and dammed up rivers in others, creating glacial lakes. Many lakes, including Lake Bonneville and the Great Salt Lake, are remnants of the ancient freshwater lake that covered most of the eastern Great Basin. The eastern Mountain West is covered by plateaus and basins where natural resources like minerals, oil, oil shale, and natural gas abound as remnants of the geologic past. Much of the southern and southeastern landscape cuts through layers of sandstone, displaying many colors and shapes developed through years of wind and water erosion. Much of this landscape is part of protected national parks such as Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion, state parks such as Goblin Valley and Monument Valley, and national monuments like Dinosaur National Monument.