Jurassic world in which to walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs

Jurassic world in which to walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs

One of the premier hiking spots in the US, The Wave, could soon be opened up to a heap of new visitors.

Tucked away in Coyote Buttes North, Arizona, right by the state border with Utah, and just a short helicopter hop from the Grand Canyon, The Wave draws in hikers from throughout the US and around the world thanks to its colourful and swirling Navajo sandstone rock formations and eye-catching vistas.

Navajo Sandstone is a geological formation that spreads across southern Nevada, northern Arizona, northwest Colorado, and Utah as part of the Colorado Plateau province.

Admittedly not the toughest trek you’ll take on - it's a modest six-mile round trip - it is one of the most spectacular and will even give you the chance to walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs.

The big drawback for this out of this world sandstone spectacle is that you can only visit if you have a permit, and the state only gives out 20 permits a day.

A lucky 10 permits are granted online and 10 more are given to walk-ins, with the 'lottery' opening at 9am Monday through to Friday.

But demand is high. Authorities say in excess of 160,000 people have applied for permits in recent years but less than 7,000 were issued. That leaves an awful lot of not very happy hikers left kicking their heels.

So what is The Wave, where did it come from and what is the big attraction?

The Wave is a real-life Jurassic world, a unique cluster of U-shaped troughs which started out as wind-blown sand dunes. Over millennia they compacted into sandstone - that was more than 200 million years ago.

The U-shaped troughs were then carved into the sandstone by streams and floods.  The gentle run-off deposited minerals such as calcium, manganese and iron oxide, while simultaneously eroding the rock along its joints, gradually softening the look and molding them into their gently rounded appearance.

The process of water erosion eventually tapered off, allowing aeolian deposits to render The Wave into its present form with exposed deposits of cross-bedded sandstone marked by rhythmic and cyclic alternating grainflow and undulating layers of sedimentary rock, organic tissue and other material.

In some areas, The Wave exposes deformed laminae within the Navajo Sandstone. These laminae were deformed prior to the timeframe when sand turned into stone, which is indicative of the trampling, churning and digestive processes of dinosaurs.

In fact, more graphic indications of dinosaur existence here can be seen just off the trail in a number of claw prints immaculately preserved. It is likely the prints were left by Grallators which walked the Earth about 200 million years ago during the late Triassic early Jurassic periods.

All these things combine to make The Wave one of the premier natural photographic destinations in the US Southwest.

How can I get to see the spectacle that is The Wave?

Good news could be on the way for those disappointed hikers hoping to tick The Wave off their bucket list.

As a result of the high demand for permits, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages the region’s natural attractions, is considering increasing the number of visitors it allows each day up to a maximum of 96.

The BLM says that "the proposed change would increase recreational opportunities and visitor access while preserving wilderness values". It is currently monitoring feedback about the fledgling idea to increase access for hikers.

The daily limit of visitors has always been in place to protect the incredible rock formations. There has been some opposition arguing that increasing the number of visitors could pose a threat to the delicate sandstone features of the local environment.

You can find out more on the Wave's official website.

What gear do I need to hike The Wave?

Well, if you are thinking of The Wave, you have to be thinking about water, in one way or another.

It may only be six miles but during the past five years the trek has claimed the lives of five people and four of those fatalities were heat related, so if you go in the warmer months bring plenty of water, at least four litres, preferably more.

But, of course, the summer months are more popular for hiking, and generally better for photographs, so competition for those precious permits is even more fierce during those months.

The best months to apply for walk-in permits are December through to February - but there’s a good chance there will be snow on the ground at this time.

Waterproof gear - including hats, socks and gloves - is a must throughout fall and winter. Add ankle support hiking boots, trekking poles and navigation aids, and don’t forget to load your backpack with a first aid kit, knife or multi-tool, torch and headlamp (with spare batteries) matches or lighter, sunglasses (even in winter) and long shelf-life snacks such as energy bars, nuts and dried fruit.

Since there is no trail to The Wave you should be able to use a map and compass or GPS to stay on route. The BLM also provides a map with your permit and instructions on getting to The Wave.

You should never hike The Wave on your own - there is safety in numbers - and if you have reservations about your map reading skills, bite the bullet and use a certified guide.


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