Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Loope, D.B., 2019, Hexagonal fracture patterns on Navajo Sandstone crossbeds at Yellow Knolls, Washington County, in Milligan, M., Biek, R.F., Inkenbrandt, P., and Nielsen, P., editors, Utah Geosites: Utah Geological Association Publication 48, 5 p.,


Th is is an open-access article in which the Utah Geological Association permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction of text and fi gures that are not noted as copyrighted, provided the original author and source are credited.


At this geosite, the main features of interest—remarkably uniform and beautiful fracture patterns dominantly composed of linked hexagons (fi gures 1 and 2)—are present on outcrops of the Jurassic Navajo Sandstone. Th e Navajo was deposited by large, southward- migrating desert dunes about 200 million years ago, but the fractures that defi ne the hexagons here are just a surfi cial veneer less than 20 inches (half a meter) deep. Th e fractures are a weathering phenomenon that developed under climate conditions similar to today’s. Steep thermal gradients develop in the sandstone because it is exposed to solar radiation and changing air temperature. Polygonal fracturing is present in other Navajo exposures in southern Utah, but only in non-bedded (homogeneous) rock. Th e beautiful, bedding-parallel fracture pattern developed here is very rare; it developed because the bedding planes in the rock at Yellow Knolls are unusually wide-spaced.