The Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park is located in Gensu, China near the city of Zhangye. The 200 square mile park is known for it’s rainbow colored rock formations that leave the mountainside smeared with red, blue, and yellow streaks. Four different viewing platforms are available for tourists who wish to view the magnificent peaks, and they can be accessed by special sightseeing cars that allow visitors special access to areas that are closed off to public transportation. The best time to visit to see the coloration in its full effect is from June to September when the weather is the nicest and the strong sun can bring out the colors more. In addition, the most vibrant colors can be seen after a day of rain and are most prevalent at dusk or dawn.
These unusual colored bands are the result of over 24 million years of sandstone and other mineral deposits that built up on top of one another. The peaks and valleys were caused by tectonic plate shifts causing the ground to buckle and form the jagged skyline that we seen today. Erosion in the form of air and wind finalized the shape and smooth edges that make the peaks resemble a rainbow rock sea.
In 2010, China Danxia was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, joining over one thousand other sites given this title. According to UNESCO, this region is categorized not only by its notable color formations, but also by the unique pillars, towers, ravines, valleys and waterfalls that erosion and plate shifts helped create. This unique and rugged landscape has helped preserve over 400 rare species of flora and fauna.
As magnificent as these formations are, it is interesting to note that the above images came from official Chinese government sources. Many people argue that these photos have been doctored in order to exaggerate the color bands in the cliffs, and although this may be true, the actual formations are still spectacular. Below is a more accurate image of what China Danxia would actually look like in real life. The color bands are still pronounced, however it is clear that this image is more realistic than the colorful images above.
China is not the only place that has these colorful striped mountains. In British Colombia, Canada, they have their own mountain range that they refer to as “The Rainbow Range.” The Rainbow Range is only about 8 million years old, making the range in China almost 20 million years older. Canada’s Rainbow Range however is made not of sandstone, but of volcanic rock. Whereas China’s range was carved by rain and wind, the Canadian range was largely carved by glaciers and glacier runoff.
These “Rainbow Ranges” bring up an interesting point when it comes to learning about the world through the internet. It is important to question what you see, because it is very easy to exaggerate facts and even appearances to individuals who are unfamiliar with your topic. Doctored images may help countries like China bring in tourism and give their country bragging rights. It’s for this reason that it’s important to get out in the world and experience the cool things it has to offer in person.