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Horse Shoe Bend, Arizona

Carved by the receding waters of Noah’s Flood


Published: 18 September 2012 (GMT+10)
Wikipedia/J0ch3N89 Figure 1. Horse Shoe Bend is a spectacular geological twist carved into the Colorado Plateau near Page, Arizona.
Figure 1. Horse Shoe Bend is a spectacular geological twist carved into the Colorado Plateau near Page, Arizona.

Earlier this year, a well-known geologist stood with a group of people at the rim of Horse Shoe Bend, Arizona, (figure 1) and declared that Noah’s Flood could not have formed this feature. During an energetic event such as Noah’s Flood, he said, the water would flow in a large gush in one direction. According to this professor of geology at a university in California, the winding course of the Colorado River indicates that the river had low energy and would have been flowing just above sea level at that time.

This professor, who has authored well-known books on geology, was absolutely sure that Noah’s Flood could not explain the meandering loop. In his view, Noah’s global Flood, as described in the Bible, never happened.

However, when we look a bit more carefully at the landscapes in the area, the evidence is very clear. The canyon was indeed carved by Noah’s Flood. But to recognize that, you have to think big.

Google Maps is an excellent tool for examining the area (figure 2). Horse Shoe Bend sits near the town of Page and is about 8 km (5 miles) downstream of Glen Canyon Dam. In this section the Colorado River takes a winding course for 25 km (16 miles) from Lake Powell (dark water to the top right of image) to Marble Canyon (bottom left), which is upstream of Grand Canyon. So deeply has the river cut into the plateau that sightseers need to be careful at the rim of the bend, where there is a drop of 300 metres (1000 feet) to the bottom (figure 1).

Google Maps Figure 2. Area around Horse Shoe Bend as revealed on Google Maps.
Figure 2. Area around Horse Shoe Bend as revealed on Google Maps.

It is a simple matter to picture the receding waters of Noah’s Flood and see how well that explains the landscape:

  1. In the ‘second half’ of Noah’s Flood, as the waters began to recede from the continents into the ocean, they initially flowed in wide sheets. In this area they would have flowed in a south-west direction, cutting the large, flat plateau on which the town of Page sits (figure 2). This erosion is obvious to geologists and they have called it The Great Denudation. Kilometres of sediment have been eroded from a vast expanse above the plateau by this sheet-flow phase of Noah’s Flood.
  2. With time the water flow reduced but still flowed in enormous channels. The erosion that this caused can be seen in the cross section shown in figure 3 (generated using Google Earth). Here the flow channel is more than 30 km (20 miles) wide. The present course of the Colorado River sits in a deep slot that runs along the middle of this channel. This dual-shaped cross section is a typical signature of the recessive stage of Noah’s Flood. For more information see A receding Flood scenario for the origin of the Grand Canyon (at Feature 5 of the article).1
  3. This enormous channel is the evidence that the geologist above expected, when he said the water from the Flood would flow in a large gush in one direction. However, he did not make the connection because he was not thinking of a large enough gush.
  4. As the North American continent continued to rise and the ocean level fell, the surface of the plateau around Page emerged. Note that the plateau would have been undulating rather than flat, similar to the uneven surface on the beach when the tide goes out. The water that continued to flow, draining the ponded areas upstream (such as Lake Powell and beyond), would have flowed along the lowest parts of the landscape, following the winding, meandering route that we now see.
  5. The geologist above was likely correct when he said the river was flowing just above sea level when Horse Shoe Bend was being eroded. Marble Canyon was likely full of water and eroding in an upstream direction. The water flowing down the Colorado River from Lake Powell flowed into Marble Canyon, probably forming a hydraulic jump at the escarpment (e.g. Example on YouTube).2
  6. At present, The Colorado River is much smaller than Horse Shoe Bend (figure 1), suggesting that a much larger volume of water flowed through the bend as it was being carved. This area of the US is relatively dry with the average rainfall for Page3 being less than 18 cm (7 inches) per year. Such meagre rainfall is unlikely to produce the flow of water needed to erode such a deep gorge.
  7. As the water continued to drain during the Flood, and the water level in Marble Canyon dropped (technically described as a lowering of ‘base level’) the flow cut the canyon deeper, but continued to follow the pre-existing meandering shape.
  8. The flow of water was not slow and gentle as the term ‘meander’ suggests. The shape of the river was determined by the undulating surface of the plateau. The entire discharge of the enormous ponded area upstream on the plateau would have been through this section of river.
  9. Geologist Steve Austin in his book Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe explained how the conditions that carved these deep canyons have been studied in a large flume in the laboratory.4 It was found that the canyon needed a high discharge rate and lowering of base level in order for the meanders to be incised vertically. In other words, the deep canyon points to high energy flow. When the flow rate is low the alluvium in the channel would not be swept away and the channel would be cut horizontally, not vertically.
  10. Note that upstream of Page the canyon (as delineated by the dark waters of Lake Powell, figure 2) is shaped like a fern frond (a fractal shape). This indicates that, as the river was cutting deeper into the plateau, water was ponded in large areas upstream. The fractal shape is produced when the ponded water drains sideways into the long canyon now filled by Lake Powell. For further discussion on this process see A receding Flood scenario for the origin of the Grand Canyon (at Feature 2 of the article).
  11. Since the section of river between the Glen Canyon Dam and Marble Canyon was draining a large ponded area upstream, it is actually a water gap, which is another tell-tale feature of Noah’s Flood. The Colorado Plateau in this area displays many water gaps. For more information on water gaps see Do rivers erode through mountains?5
Google Earth Figure 3. Google Earth reveals that the Colorado River near Page sits within a channel over 30 km wide, eroded by the receding waters of Noah’s Flood.
Figure 3. Google Earth reveals that the Colorado River near Page sits within a channel over 30 km wide, eroded by the receding waters of Noah’s Flood.

So, contrary to what the Californian geology professor claimed, Horse Shoe Bend and the landscape surrounding it are elegantly explained by the receding waters of Noah’s Flood. Actually, it is difficult to see how these features could be explained by slow-and-gradual processes.


  1. Scheele, P., A receding Flood scenario for the origin of the Grand Canyon, Journal of Creation 24(3):106–116, 2010. Return to text.
  2. Hydraulic jump, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_jump. Example on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEHHf5gJE5A. Return to text.
  3. Glen Canyon: Weather and Global Warming, National Park Service, August 2007, http://www.nps.gov/glca/naturescience/weather.htm. Return to text.
  4. Austin, S.A. (Ed.), Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe, Institute for Creation Research, pp. 98–99, 1994. Return to text.
  5. Oard, M.J., Do rivers erode through mountains? Water gaps are strong evidence for the Genesis Flood, Creation 29(3):18–23, 2007. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Flood By Design
by Michael J Oard
US $15.00
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Jesse M.
@Pat G., I can relate to you so well. I have experienced Wikipedia's bias myself. If you look at the profiles of the admins, most of them are anti-Christian and anti-creationist. That is why I post on CreationWiki instead.

On the Answers In Genesis wiki page, they talked about the nylon-eating bacteria s "proof" of evolution. Someone put up an article by Dr. Georgia Purdom to counter this claim, and Wikipedia took it down for no reason. Also, I corrected a straw-man of Ken Ham, and they reversed that as well.
annette H.
Re John B United Kindom, 1 January 2013 "I find it very sad that people wish to dismiss the immense amount of evidence supporting evolution and instead prefer to tell their children lies, just so they don't have to go against a doctrine for which there is no credible scientific evidence".... John B, did you even read the article? Please provide one portion of the "immense amount of evidence supporting evolution" to support your comment.
John B.
I find it very sad that people wish to dismiss the immense amount of evidence supporting evolution and instead prefer to tell their children lies, just so they don't have to go against a doctrine for which there is no credible scientific evidence.
Jeff C.
there is one point that should be pointed out in reference to the Flood Hypothesis. After the Flood event and the ensuing Ice Age, catastrophic events have continued even to present day. The MT. St Helens Engineers Canyon being a recent one. If we had not seen it form, we might be tempted to think it was formed during the flood.
So it's the Main flood event which has lead to many many smaller events. Those smaller events (like Mt St Helens) could also have been responsible for Horse shoe Bend 500, 1000 or 4000 years later.
Tas Walker
Hi Jeff,
What you say is an option for the timing of Horse Shoe Bend and should be considered. Options need to be tested against the geological evidence, such as the shape of the landscape, the characteristics of the sediments that are cut, the sequence of events indicated from the geology, and the processes suggested from those events. The article above considered these briefly and I think the conclusion that Horse Shoe Bend was carved late in the Recessive stage of the Flood fits very well with the evidence. I think there are problems with the idea of a post-Flood carving, such as the origin of the water and the tight meandering shape of the canyon. See also the article under "Related articles" below that addresses the carving of Grand Canyon.
Dan B.
I and others in the U.K. have just watched the programme on BBC3 which contains the episode Dr Walker describes at the start of his article. As soon as I saw they were at "horseshoe bend" I recalled that CMI had recently posted an article about it - and lo and behold, this closes the circle!

If any CMI sympathiser who watched that programme gets quizzed by anyone about it, and in particular by said geologist's claims, I'd hope they'd refer any sceptic straight to this excellent rebuttal and true explanation for this geological feature.

Thank you again Tas!
Roger P.
Nice, also plenty of tectonic action/subduction.. during Mabul global flood year as continents split.
but if not during global flood year, plenty of water action during subsequent localized floods over the 340 years of ice age, as ice dams/ glaciers, melted, broke, refroze..
Tas Walker
See reply to Jeff C below, which deals with a possible post-Flood carving. See also the article on the carving of Grand Canyon during the Recessive Stage under Related Articles below.
Robert B.
I'm not a geologist but maybe some of the massive volcanic explosions (1000 Mt St Helens worth at least) soon after the Flood generated volcanic ash. http://geology.com/articles/volcanic-ash.shtml. Some volcanic ash sets like concrete, and may have acted like mortar for the debris in the floodwaters.
Brian L.

Would you please publicly answer Alex's comment about deltas on the Nile still remaining soft sand instead of hardening?

I (and perhaps others) would like to know the scientific refutation to Alex's comment, but I am at a loss of what that simple geological explanation would be.

Perhaps the simple explanation is if the Nile floods often enough or has abundant ground water near the surface on its banks, then sand/silt is continually being supplied and kept moist enough to remain soft.

How scientifically sound is my stab in the dark?

Thank you for your ministry!
Tas Walker
Hi Brian,
The sediment comprising the Colorado Plateau that forms the walls of Horse Shoe Bend is well cemented and the Flood explains the origin of the vast quantities of mineral needed to cement the grains.
First, the waters that carried and deposited the sediment would have held much more dissolved minerals than is the case for rivers today. The water in such rivers is usually good for drinking and agriculture.
Second, vast thicknesses of sediment were deposited quickly during the Flood and the water remained trapped as connate water between the grains.
Third, kilometres of sediment were deposited on top of the area vastly increasing the pore pressure of the water. Increased pressure allowed more silica to be dissolved.
Fourth, the erosion of the plateau during the recessive stage of Noah's Flood would have reduced the pore pressure and this would have helped minerals to precipitate.
None of these conditions apply in the case of the Nile Delta. That would be why we do not see the sediments being cemented in like manner today.
It is worth noting that there are many examples of sediments hardening rapidly today. (See Rapid Rock and Is there evidence that rocks and gems don’t need a long time to form?)
So, your suggestion is a good one, but it is not just because the sediment remains moist that it remains soft but also because the water does not have sufficient mineral content that can be precipitated and cement the grains.
What the well-known geologist did not mention was the question of how Horseshoe Bend could possibly have formed under non-catastrophic conditions. Conventional geologists have no satisfactory explanations for incised gorges such as Horseshoe Bend, or for water gaps such as the path of the Colorado through the Kaibab plateau and the San Juan River through the Goosenecks, all of which are more easily explained as being the erosional remnants of tremendous currents flowing off the earth's surface during its emergence from inundation.
Alex F.
@Tas. Strange, then, that we don't see that process continue today. Rivers such as the Nile have built up vast deltas, century after century, and yet the sediments are still sand or silt! No sign that they are in any way turning into shale or sandstone, yet the continuously-percolating groundwaters must be bringing in dissolved minerals in the same way as the Flood.
Tas Walker
You are behaving like the geologist mentioned in the article, "The Flood could not have happened because ... blah, blah, blah." His objection was answered and yours has a simple answer too. You need to change your approach. Instead of dredging around looking for all the problems you need to start thinking of answers. There will always be an answer because the Flood really happened. God really did judge the world for its sin but saved Noah and his family, and that is the important lesson for us.
Jeff W.
Thank you for this article. I'd like to suggest that this piece (and there are others on an ongoing basis!) would be an incredible basis for a video presentation where someone like Dr. W could explain, with visual aids, the same content he has so ably written about. Anyway, well done!
Jeremy W.
I've flown over so many of these areas, and it seems to me, to be obvious, the higher you go, the more it looks like an ocean bed, and a LOT of water flowed over the continents, forming these lakes and waterways. Like the author said, you just need to think big enough.
Pat G.
I have personally seen Horseshoe Bend. Photographs don't do it justice. It is IMMENSE, and it's nowhere close to the size of the Grand Canyon. To get there, you have to slog the better part of a mile (I think) across ground that is sometimes inches deep in loose sand. The only plants I saw there of any significance were Canaigre, but otherwise, the ground was completely dry.
The existence of Lake Powell also confuses a lot of people. Lake Powell was formed when the water from the Colorado River began to collect behind a dam that was built for that purpose. Prior to the flooding of the area, it was full of slot canyons, similar to Antelope Canyon (which is also a mind-boggling sight for a different reason). And incidentally, I have never seen any signs of fossils in Antelope Canyon, which has been carved out of sandstone by Noah's Flood followed by monsoon rains, which re-shape the canyon in subtle ways, and change the amount of loose sand on the bottom.
In spite of this, Wikipedia assures us Antelope Canyon is millions of years old (or some ridiculous figure), even though there is NOTHING THERE to date it with. When I corrected the article, it got changed back, and I got a written tongue lashing. As a fractal artist, I can tell you that Lake Powell definitely looks like a fractal image. Compare it to a graph of the Mandelbrot Set.
Thank you for publishing this, and for the gorgeous photo of Horseshoe Bend. You can write many, many articles about the geological features of this entire region. In recent times, there is nowhere near enough water to do any of this kind of damage, and in fact, the level of Lake Powell dropped drastically (to the point where I thought it might dry up if the rains didn't return), several feet, and you could see the deposits on the sides that showed where the water had been.
Alex F.
It is hard to see how flood deposits that were soft enough to be eroded by the run-off turned into the wide variety of hard rock we see today, simply by drying out!
Tas Walker
Hi Alex,
It wasn't simply by drying out that these deposits turned into rock. The sediment hardened into rock because a cement was deposited in the pore spaces between the grains. Common cements include silica, limestone and iron minerals. The Flood also provides the explanation for the origin of this cement—minerals dissolved in the floodwaters that precipitated out. Deposition of cement would also continue from ground water in the post-Flood period.
Ockie C.
If one were to look at the evidence objectively, and make logical deductions from what that evidence shows, I think one would come to the conclusion that Horse Shoe Bend was formed by the aftermath of a cataclysmic event, even if one were NOT inclined to take the Bible as actual history... It is truly saddening on the one hand and actually quite funny on the other hand how these so-called scientists, with no apparent effort, can make themselves appear absolutely troglodytic, and then shrug criticism of their scientific method off with the greatest nonchalance imaginable... The blind leading the blind...
Jack C.
Very good article. It's truly interesting that the more one investigates such events in a more scientific way as you have done in this article, the more it supports the Biblical young age and history of our planet than the atheistic view. Too bad the scientific community as a whole won't publicly admit this is so or at least stop rubbishing the young world view, given they are supposed to be open minded, honest and sincere in their search for the truth.

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