Kingston Canyon is one of the deepest antecedent canyons in the High Plateaus subprovince of the Colorado Plateaus. Here the East Fork of the Sevier River flows westward transversely across the gently east tilted Sevier Plateau, which is developed on a basin-range fault block uplifted more than 1,500 m along the Sevier fault zone on the west. Upper Tertiary rhyolites, uncommon in southwestern Utah, occur both on the northern rim and in the bottom of Kingston Canyon. Those on the northern rim consist of lava flows and volcanic domes of the rhyolite of Forshea Mountain, dated by K-Ar methods at 7.6 m.y. old. Those in the bottom of Kingston Canyon, the rhyolite of Phonolite Hill, are especially well exposed and provide spectacular examples of a pyroclastic cone whose base is about at river level and a steep-sided volcanic dome emplaced into and through these deposits. The pyroclastic deposits, formerly 500 or more metres thick, consist of airfall, mudflow, and ash-flow(?) material of rhyolite and foreign lithic fragments, especially olivine basalt. The dome consists of flow-banded, mostly devitrified rhyolite as much as 500 m thick; it has been dated by K-Ar methods at 5.4 m.y. In addition to the rhyolites, a dome and lava-flow complex, the rhyodacite of Dry Lake, occurs near the northern rim and is considered to postdate the rhyolite of Forshea Mountain and predate the rhyolite of Phonolite Hill.
The rhyolite of Forshea Mountain was deposited near basin-range faults, before the uplift of the Sevier Plateau and before the cutting of Kingston Canyon. Before uplift, a river flowed across the site of the present Sevier Plateau toward the east-southeast and perhaps also across the Awapa and Aquarius Plateaus to the east. The rhyodacite of Dry Lake was deposited during uplift and perhaps before canyon cutting. During uplift, the river maintained itself and cut Kingston Canyon. The rhyolite of Phonolite Hill was deposited in this canyon, blocking the river flow, which probably formed new outlets to the east. The Awapa and Aquarius Plateaus later were uplifted along faults, disrupting the eastern part of the river segment. The topography then took on its present appearance, and drainage was re-established through Kingston Canyon. There has been little deepening since the reopening of Kingston Canyon.