In upland areas of Canyonlands National Park, Utah, thin deposits and paleosols show late Quaternary episodes of eolian sedimentation, pedogenesis, and climate change. Interpretation of the stratigraphy and optically stimulated luminescence ages of eolian and nearby alluvial deposits, their pollen, and intercalated paleosols yields the following history: (1) Eolian deposition at ca. 46 ka, followed by several episodes of alluviation from some time before ca. 40 ka until after 16 ka (calibrated). (2) Eolian deposition from ca. 17 ka to 12 ka, interrupted by periods of pedogenesis, coinciding with late Pleistocene alluviation as local climate became warmer and wetter. (3) A wetter period from 12 to 8.5 ka corresponding to the peak of summer monsoon influence, during which soils formed relatively quickly by infiltration of eolian silt and clay, and trees and grasses were more abundant. (4) A drier period between ca. 8.5 and 6 ka during which sheetwash deposits accumulated and more desertlike vegetation was dominant; some dunes were reactivated at ca. 8 ka. (5) Episodic eolian and fluvial deposition during a wetter, cooler period that began at ca. 6 ka and ended by ca. 3–2 ka, followed by a shift to drier modern conditions; localized mobilization of dune sand has persisted to the present. These interpretations are similar to those of studies at the Chaco dune field, New Mexico, and the Tusayan dune field, Arizona, and are consistent with paleoclimate interpretations of pollen and packrat middens in the region.
A period of rapid deposition and infiltration of eolian dust derived from distant igneous source terranes occurred between ca. 12 and 8 ka. Before ca. 17 ka, and apparently back to at least 45 ka, paleosols contain little or no such infiltrated dust. After ca. 8 ka, either the supply of dust was reduced or the more arid climate inhibited translocation of dust into the soils.