When water slowly flows across a flood plain it tends to curve back and forth or meander. Meandering rivers erode sediment from the outer curve of each meander bend and deposit it on an inner curve further down stream. This causes individual meanders to grow larger and larger over time and the channel to deepen which is called an incised meander.
Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River is one of the most dramatic examples of an incised meander on the Colorado Plateau. It is also the easiest to see. Four miles south of Page, Arizona, look for a parking area on the west side of US Route 89. From there a half mile trail leads to the rim overlooking Horseshoe Bend.
Standing on the rim, you are at about 4,200 feet above sea level and the Colorado River is 1,000 feet below. The rock formation through which the river flows is the Navajo Sandstone which can be seen over a wide area of the Colorado Plateau. Navajo Sandstone is easily recognized because of its pale, salmon color and the cross-bedding that shows it was formed of dune deposits in a vast Sahara-like desert over 150 million years ago.
Eventually as the river continues to carve the canyon, Horseshoe Bend will be cut off from the main channel and become an oxbow lake. With more time, it will fill with sediment and disappear. So enjoy it while you can. In a few million years it won’t be here anymore.
To find your way to Horseshoe Bend, go to the Flagstaff to Page Road Trip Guide.