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Mesas and Buttes

Mesas and Buttes


Mesas and buttes are found in many places in the western united states.  Mesas and buttes are what is left from eroding plateaus.  Meandering streams after hard rains erode the plateaus and leave these steep formations known as mesas and buttes.  Several locations in Arizona and New Mexico are pictured in this site.

 Mesas and Buttes


Mesas and Buttes 

A plateau is usually exposed to more erosion than other landforms because it has a higher elevation and a flat surface. The two factors that contribute to the erosion of plateaus are water and wind. Water is usually the main factor that affects the plateau in the form of a stream. How bad a stream erodes the plateau depends on the type of climate and the type of rock.

 Mesas and Buttes

Mesas and Buttes

Mesas and Buttes

If you look at a young plateau you will usually find a deep stream valley. On both sides of the valley there should be broad flat regions separating the deep stream valleys. In most cases many streams have cut wide valleys through several broad surfaces of the original plateau. Many plateaus in that are old are worn almost level and have traces of the original plateau left here and there.

Mesas and Buttes

Mesas and Buttes

Mesas and Buttes

Arid regions and semiarid regions are two regions where erosion takes place on the plateau. The arid regions receive less than 25 centimeters of rain each year, while semiarid regions have between 25 and 50 centimeters of rain each year. In these regions most of the rain evaporates quickly therefore very little vegetation grows to hold the soil in place. Therefore when heavy rains come they leave pronounced erosional effects on the plateau. The heavy rains wash the soft materials, in the plateau, away. Leaving only the rocks that are steep and resistant. The remnants after the erosion has taken place of the plateau have created new landforms that rise abruptly from the desert plains called mesas and buttes.

Mesas and Buttes 

 Mesas and Buttes

 Mesas and Buttes


A mesa is considered both a geography and geology term. The mesa is an isolated, high plateau with a flat top and steep sides. It is commonly found in dry regions of the western and southwestern United States. Mesas are portions of larger plateaus that have been detached by the widening of canyons. These landforms are said to resemble a table and that is how they got their name from the Spanish word, mesa, meaning table.

 Mesas and Buttes


 Mesas and Buttes


A butte is also considered to be both a geographical and geological term. This formation looks like a mountain or a hill that is flat topped and isolated from the surrounding area. The butte may be a volcanic neck or a cone that has resisted erosion. It can also be a portion of a former surface such as a plateau or a mesa. In most cases the buttes are capped by horizontal of hard rock that protect the lower layers from being eroded. Buttes resemble mesas but are smaller and have more uniform dimensions.
There are many mesas and buttes located in the western part of the United States here are several found in Arizona and Colorado that are located in and around the Grand Canyon area.



Fishtail Mesa

Mesa Verde

Nankoweap Mesa  

Dead Horse Mesa

Mesa Del Norte

Ermita Mesa

Horseshoe Mesa

Titled Mesa

Matkatamiba Mesa

Horseshoe Mesa

Sinyala Mesa



Crested Butte  

Wooden Shoe Butte

Alsap Butte

Crested Butte  

Barbenceta Butte     

Chuar Butte

Hancock Butte 

Galeros Butte

Nankoweap Butte   

Kwagunt Butte

Novinger Butte  

Lava Butte

Temple Butte

Clement Powell Butte

Cardenas Butte   

Oza Butte

Escalante Butte   

Hattan Butte

Espejo Butte  

Hillers Butte

Cochise Butte

Cogswell Butte

Colter Butte    

Fiske Butte

Duppa Butte

Coronado Butte

Hubbell Butte 

Dunn Butte  

Kibbey Butte  

Dana Butte

Poston Butte 

Cope Butte

Marsh Butte 

Hall Butte

Whites Butte

Hawkins Butte

Newberry Butte 

Howlands Butte

Lyell Butte


Evans Butte   

Newon Butte

Scylla Butte

O’Neil Butte

Wallace Butte

Pattie Butte

Sumner Butte

Three Sisters

Elephant Foot

Mesas and Buttes

Photos courtesy of Richard Lachowsky and Leah Arnold
Web Page By: Tarah Wylie  

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