Have You Seen a Hoodoo?

Have You Seen a Hoodoo?

What Are They?

Hoodoo is a word with a funny sound.  It sounds like it could be a creature, a strange greeting or maybe magic spell.  But a hoodoo is actually an unusual rock formation, that is as intriguing as it is rare.

Hoodoos, also called tent rocks or fairy chimneys can be found around the globe.  Different types and shapes are caused by different rock layers.  They can be sedimentary or volcanic.  A hoodoo is more varied in shape than simple rock spires, which are usually smoother and more uniform. 

Where can you see them?

Hoodoos are mostly in hot, dry climates, enabling both erosion and preservation of the naturally forming shapes.  Both water and wind erode the rock, but the dry climate helps to maintain nature’s creations. 

There are many places around the globe that offer some form of a hoodoo, but nowhere is there a higher concentration than inside Bryce Canyon National Park.  In addition to just the number of hoodoos that Bryce has, the variety of colors make a truly incredible landscape.  Bright reds, oranges, whites and browns all add to an overall scene that is truly like no other.  It is as if nature harmonized all the aspects together in one place to create a true masterpiece. 

How are Hoodoos Created?

Hoodoos typically form when hard rock is on top of soft rock.  With layers of limestone, basalt or solid sandstone on top of mudstone or soft sandstone, erosion then washes out the lower sections before the upper sections.  The more durable layer on top protects and weighs down on the softer section below.  

Erosion takes place from wind and water.  Freeze and thaw cycles are also an important process in creating these spires. Bryce has a dry climate, but does have over 200 freeze and thaw cycles a year.  That is unusually high. It means that melting snow can seep into cracks and freeze at night.  This expands the crack, little by little, and changes the structure and integrity of the rock.  The freeze and thaw cycles help to erode the rock and form the hoodoos and other rock formations in the area.  This process is also called frost wedging.  Rain can assist in the process.  Regular rainfall slowly washes away some of the volume.  Summer monsoonal rains (short bursts are called flash floods) will wash away more at the base and the floor, helping to make the landscape even more pronounced.   

What Do You Call a Group of Hoodoos?

At Bryce Canyon National Park, the hoodoos form a series of natural Amphitheaters. These areas are naturally occurring formations where a steep mountain or a particular rock formation naturally amplifies or echoes sound. The largest is called Bryce Amphitheater, which extends 12 miles (19 km) long and is 3 miles (5 km) wide. It is 800 feet (240 m) deep. Other smaller amphitheaters open up different views within the park. So even though it is called Bryce Canyon, the area is not actually a canyon at all.  It lies within the Colorado Plateau, straddling the southeastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau west of the Paunsaugunt Fault. This collection of amphitheaters and hoodoos is a magical and rare place.

Bryce Canyon National Park

As if Hoodoos were not enough of an attraction at Bryce, visitors can also experience over 100 species of birds, dozens of mammals, and more than a thousand species of plants.  Bryce Canyon National Park has a fairly dry climate, and the rim is 8,000 feet above sea level.  Air quality is pristine, offering clarity for day viewing and night skies.  Stars shine in abundance during clear nights. The contrast of colors from red rocks, green trees, and blue skies is dramatic and inviting for any photographer.  The current wildlife and flowers living in the area are quite different from those whose fossils are in the exposed layers of rock. The Bryce Canyon amphitheater reveals a long geologic history of sedimentation and erosion.  Faulting, uplift and erosion all add to the modern-day discovery of plant and animal life in this area between 130 to 40 million years ago. The Paunsaugunt Plateau is now covered with forests, plant life and animals. 

It is easy to walk along the rim, at several different viewpoints within the park.  There are also a number of trails to venture down in and among the hoodoos themselves.  This enables visitors to not only view them from above, but next to and from the bottom upward.  Each point of view is fascinating and different.  It is a paradise for any visitors wishing to appreciate the beautiful landscape.

How Do You Hoodoo?

A visit to a hoodoo region is memorable and should be on your list.  Each hoodoo region is different, and in fact they could combine to create their own “bucket list.”  Colors, shapes and climates all differ and add intrigue.  From Cappaddocia in Turkey, to Devil’s Town in Armenia, to Bryce Canyon National Park, you will be amazed with the beauty that nature has provided. 

How Do You Get There?

Bryce Canyon National Park, home of the highest concentration of hoodoos in the world, is in Southern Utah in the southwest United States.  From Las Vegas, there are Day Tours from Las Vegas.   Overnight accommodations are available on a limited basis within the park at the lodge or at Ruby’s Inn, located at the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park.  

By David Lusvardi

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