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Wingate Sandstone

(in Glen Canyon Group)


Age: Early Jurassic

Figure 1: Paleogeographic map of the Early Jurassic, Wingate Sandstone, Navajo Sandstone, and Kayenta Formation. (Blakey, 2008)

The Wingate Sandstone is dated to the Earliest Jurassic, though precise dating of eolian deposits is typically difficult (see discussion in Navajo Sandstone).   


Depositional Environment:

Eolian (wind blown)

The Wingate Sandstone was deposited in an eolian environment made up of large sand dunes, similar to portions of the modern Sahara Desert.  See Navajo Sandstone discussion for details that apply to the Wingate Sandstone as well.



The Wingate Sandstone erg (a large sand sea) originally lay at very low latitude, centered approximately 10o north of the equator. Like the Navajo Sandstone, its sediment source was at least partly from the Appalachian Mountains (Dickenson and Gehrels 2003).


Directly adjacent to the south and west of the erg lay the erg margin facies of the Moenave Formation (Blakey et al. 1988, Blakey 1989, 2008, Clemmensen et al. 1989) .



The basinal area (created by tectonism) was subsiding significantly enough to provide enough accommodation space to capture and accumulate eolian sediment (Kocurek and Dott 1983).



Dry /Arid

Similar to the Navajo Sandstone, the climate in the Colorado Plateau region during deposition of the Wingate sandstone would have been very dry, classified as hyper-arid (Kocurek and Dott 1983, Loope et al. 2004).



The Wingate tends to from very blocky, vertical cliffs, likely related to different grain sizes and cementation compared to the younger (overlying) Navajo Sandstone. Because of the cliff weathering and smooth vertical faces, it is often difficult to see and access sedimentary structures in the Wingate Sandstone.  It contains large-scale cross stratification characteristic of dunes and shows internal grain fall, grain flow, and wind ripple strata.  Further, the desert varnish, iron oxide staining and weathering pattern of the Wingate Sandstone commonly obscures the trough cross stratification. 


For further information on desert varnish see stop 2-6 (Petroglyphs).  For more information on grain flow and wind ripple strata see the Navajo Sandstone page.


Sites Best to See it:

Stop 2-6 - Petroglyphs

Stop 2-7 - The Castle

Stop 3-1 - Wingate Sandstone


Figure 2: This is a map of the paleogeography of the western US during the deposition of the Wingate sandstone from Blakey, 1989 (p. 392).  This map shows the Wingate Sandstone covering parts of Utah and Arizona and extending into Colorado and New Mexico.  To the south and west of the primary Wingate erg are the erg margin facies of the Moenave Formation.  It was originally believed that fluvial channels in the Moenave Formation carried sediment from source areas in the south to the northwest of the erg, from where the sediment could be blown into the dune field.  Recent detrital zircon work has proved that much of the sediment was transported from eastern North America to the northwest of the Wingate erg to be transported by the wind into the dune field.



Figure 3: Figure from Loope et al., 2004 (p. 317) showing the primary wind direction for the Wingate Sandstone.

Figure 4: Figure from Loope et al., 2004 (p. 318) showing reorientation of trade winds to westerlies at low latitudes due to regional low-pressure regimes driving monsoon systems.


Figure 5: Though it is hard to see elsewhere in the park because of the desert varnish, iron oxide staining, and weathering, the Wingate does have large-scale trough cross strata common to sand dunes.  These trough cross strata are visible when you can get very close to the rock, such as at the Petroglyphs stop.           


It is also possible to see the pock marked weathering pattern, common to the Navajo sandstone, called honeycomb weathering.

Figure 6: Since both the Wingate and Navajo Sandstones are eolian formations present in Capital Reef National Park, and are nearly adjacent formations with only the Kayenta formation separating them, it is important to be able to tell them apart.  This photo shows the Wingate in the midground with the Navajo in the center background, on the skyline, and is good for highlighting the differences between the two formations.  The Wingate tends to weather in shear, vertically jointed cliffs, while the Navajo tends to weather in rounded domes.  The Wingate tends to be red from iron oxide staining, though as can be seen in the center midground the Wingate can also be bleached, while the Navajo is almost always a light, bleached color. 



For a complete list of references please go to the References page.



A pdf version of this website is available on the Main Page


Disclaimer: The information is property of the University of Utah. Unless cited, images and files found on this site have been taken or created by the Geology and Geophysics Department at the University of Utah. Any use of these images should be cited appropriately. The stratigraphic column is from: Mathis, A. C. 2000. Capitol Reef National Park and Vicinity Geologic Road Logs, Utah, in: P.B. Anderson and D.A. Sprinkel (eds.) Geologic Road, Trail, and Lake Guides to Utah’s Parks and Monuments Utah Geological Association Publication 29. http://www.utahgeology.org/uga29Titles.htm

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