The colorful mesas, buttes, and badlands before you
compose a natural work of art—the Painted Desert.
Wind and running water cut these features from the
Chinle Formation deposited over 200 million years
ago when this area was a vast inland basin near sea
level. The colors are due to ancient environmental
conditions in which the sediments were originally
deposited as well as the type of minerals present in
Besides being colorful, the Chinle Formation
contains a valuable fossil record of Late Triassic
plants and animals ranging from ferns and shellfish to
amphibians and dinosaurs. Members of the scientific
community from all over the world come here to
study these fossils.
Extending in a broad arc from east of Grand Canyon
southeastward and towards St. Johns, Arizona, the Painted
Desert was exposed by the erosional force of the Little
Minerals paint the desert with many colorful hues.