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What is a painted desert?

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The Painted Desert is a desert of badlands in Arizona that stretches from the Grand Canyon into the Petrified Forest National Park. Much of the Painted Desert is part of the Navajo Nation. Its name describes the brilliant blue, lavender, red, white and yellow colors of its rock layers. The colors are created by deposits of iron and manganese, which combine with layers of mudstone, shale and siltstone.

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What is a painted desert?
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The Painted Desert's elevations range from 4,500 to 6,500 feet. The desert is arid and barren, broken only by buttes and, on the north side, by cliffs and mesas. Erosion is a severe problem in the Painted Desert. Many of the rocks, particularly mudstone, are very soft, and the monsoon rains of Arizona erode them at a rate of 1/4 inch per year.

Although it is a desert, the Painted Desert is cold in the winter, with high temperatures around 45 degrees Fahrenheit and lows around 22 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the below-freezing temperatures, the Painted Desert does not typically receive snow because it is so dry. Summer temperatures hover around 93 degrees Fahrenheit, with lows around 62 degrees Fahrenheit. The Painted Desert only receives 5 to 9 inches of rain per year.

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