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The Monitor and Merrimac Buttes

The Monitor and Merrimac Buttes

From here you have an excellent view of the Monitor and Merrimac Buttes to the northeast. These prominent land forms tower 600 feet above their Navajo sandstone base. They can be seen from many points as you travel along the highway.

The Monitor and Merrimac Buttes were named after the Civil War ironclad ships of the same names. If you look at a likeness of the old ships, their shapes bear a striking resemblance to these two buttes. The Merrimac (the large rock on your left) was the Confederate ship, called the “Virginia” by the southern forces. The Monitor (on the right) was the Union ship sent to destroy the Merrimac. The resulting sea battle changed maritime warfare forever. Long after both ships lie on the sea bottom, their rock counterparts remain locked in perpetual battle.

The Monitor and Merrimac Buttes are composed of Entrada sandstone. (This is the same rock layer that forms many of the arches in Arches National Park.) This Entrada sandstone is composed of three “members,” or components — Dewey Bridge, Slickrock and Moab Tongue. The different “members” of the Entrada layer erode at varying rates. Specifically, the softer Dewey Bridge member erodes more quickly, causing the Slickrock cliffs to collapse. This process has created the Monitor and Merrimac Buttes, as well as other towering monoliths in the area.

Geological forces have created the stunning landforms that we enjoy today.

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