“The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools,
but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure
with a liberal allowance of time.”
— Henry David Thoreau
I doubt if Thoreau ever visited North Dakota, but these artistic spires in Theodore Roosevelt National Park certainly prove his point. Thick layers of rock, deposited millions of years ago, have been slowly carved away by the rain and winds, leaving these sandstone and clay towers.
The badlands of North Dakota are arid, and rain is infrequent. However, when it happens, it can be intense. And the lack of vegetation also lets the winds have their way with the exposed stone. Leave the destructive siblings at play for a few millennia, and nature struts her artistic stuff.
Geologists call this process “differential erosion.” The harder sandstone caprock, erodes at a slower rate than the softer clay layer beneath, producing these strangely shaped monoliths. They are known by many names, but my favorite is “hoodoo.”
Nature has provided a number of these beautiful and unusual artworks in the Western US. The best examples are in Arches National Park …
… and Bryce Canyon National Park, both in Utah.
But there are beautiful water-and-wind carved creations all over the world. We saw wonderful examples in Petra.
Another famous example is the “fairy chimneys” at Cappadocia, in Central Turkey.
A number of specific conditions must come together to produce these unusual formations, which is why they aren’t common. However, when nature pulls it all together, the results are wonderful.
P.S. An interesting aside. Did you know that feng shui, literally translated into English means “water and wind?”
5. By Cedric Gouyvenoux via Wikimedia Commons
6. By I, Luca Galuzzi via Wikimedia Commons
8, 9. By Michael Day via Wikimedia Commons