“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
Thoreau probably never visited North Dakota, but these strangely artistic spires in Theodore Roosevelt National Park prove his point perfectly. Sixty-five million years ago, right after the lights went out for the dinosaurs, thick layers of sand, silt, and mud were deposited on the flanks of the rising Rocky Mountains. Since that time, rain and wind have been slowly whittling away at these rocks leaving these precarious pillars.
Rain is rare in North Dakota’s Badlands, but when it happens it can be intense. And without vegetation to buffer the torrential hammering, the water and wind have their way with the exposed stone. Leave the destructive siblings at play for millions of years, and nature struts her artistic stuff.
Geologists call this process “differential erosion” because the sandstone in the cap rock is harder and erodes at a slower rate than the softer clay beneath. The result is these strangely shaped monoliths standing in a stark, Daliesque landscape. And carrying on the cowboy tradition of wacky names, in the American West they’re called “hoodoos.”
In addition to the Badlands, Utah’s Arches National Park hasn’t missed out on the fun …
… nor has Bryce Canyon National Park.
But America isn’t the only place that travelers can see surreal rockscapes. There are other famous locations around the world. We saw colorfully layered examples in Petra.
And the “fairy chimneys” at Cappadocia, in Central Turkey entice intrepid travelers from all over the globe.
Hoodoos aren’t common because it takes a number of special conditions for their formation, and they’re just as fragile as they look. But when nature pulls it all together, the results are spectacular.
James & Terri
P.S. And BTW, did you know that the Chinese term feng shui, literally translated means “water and wind?”
5. Cedric Gouyvenoux via Wikimedia Commons
6. Luca Galuzzi via Wikimedia Commons
8, 9. Michael Day via Wikimedia Commons