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Northern Panamint Region

Mosaic Canyon

NP3. Location/Access:
(36o 34.308’N, 117o 08.660’W) Mosaic Canyon’s parking area is located 2.4 miles south of Stovepipe Wells. The gravel road is rather steep but is well-maintained.

Best Time: Anytime, all year.

Geology: The lower reaches of Mosaic Canyon have been cut through older alluvial fan deposits and the late Proterozoic Noonday formation (mostly dolomite). The term Mosaic is used because fragments of the Noonday and other materials have been cemented to form a breccia. The rocks have subsequently been smoothed off by the action of running water and chemical weathering. Sharp and Glasner (1997, p. 139-151) provide and excellent explanation of the very recent geologic history of this site. We use their detailed explanation on our field trips. Briefly, as climates and stream flow dynamics have changed since the later Pleistocene, the lower canyon has seen alternating periods of cut and fill. Thus an overall pattern of graded bedding has been produced in the gravels. These gravel deposits and the bedrock dolomite have been at times incised and then filled with debris only to have the water cut a new channel in a slightly different position as time goes by. Further, the cementation of the gravel pebbles, cobbles and boulders (often composed of angular dolomite) that have filled in certain places have been cemented together by precipitated carbonate and then worn smooth by the action of running water thus producing the smooth mosaic. A little farther up the canyon the tan smooth dolomite bedrock has been directly worn smooth in the hourglass.
Geology of Mosaic canyon in Death Valley near Stovepipe Wells

Mosaic Canyon

The entrance to Mosaic Canyon appears deceptively ordinary, but just a 1/4 mile walk up the canyon narrows dramatically to a deep slot cut into the face of Tucki Mountain. Smooth, polished marble walls enclose the trail as it follows the canyon's sinuous curves. ...

Mosaic Canyon Geology

Mosaic Canyon was named for a rock formation known as "Mosaic Breccia". Breccia is the ...

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