The 3rd national park I visited on my cross country road trip had a special place in my heart. I have had an affinity for Bryce Canyon for a long time. Since middle school in fact. My middle school grouped all of our teachers into teams with a name chosen by the teachers, and mine happened to be named the Bryce Bruins. However, our slogan confused a lot of people: “Hoodoo? We Do!”
We were given this slogan because of the unique skinny geological formations, hoodoos, which can be found all over Bryce Canyon. However, we quickly found out that these rock formations were not common knowledge. You should have seen the number of time this group of 6th graders had to explain this slogan plastered on all of our t-shirts.
Therefore, getting the chance to actually visit this national park on my road trip all these years later almost felt like the completion of a pilgrimage for me.
So what are these hoodoos and what allows them to form in this particular location?
Hoodoos are skinny totem pole like rock structures that occur more in Bryce Canyon than anywhere else in the United States. They can be anywhere from the size of a human to 10-stories tall and are also known as goblins or tent rocks.
The main cause of the formation of these shapes is a unique erosion process called frost wedging. This location has over 200 instances of water freezing and thawing each year. Every time cold temperatures warm up, snow melts and water runs down into the empty space in the rock. As the temperature cools off again, the water freezes. Water expands as it freezes and becomes about 10% larger in size. Slowly, the water allows the gap to grow, creating the initial hoodoo shape.
Additionally, rain in the area is slightly acidic and helps to continue the removal or material to sculpt the hoodoos. This acidity creates the lumpy shapes in the limestone rock. The varying shapes and colors of the hoodoos depend on the specific mineral composition of the rock and its environment.
The combination of the mineral content, acid rain and frost wedging is the perfect storm for the creation of hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park.
When you see the hoodoos in person, one of the most impressive things is the shear quantity of hoodoos in this area. There is an entire expanse of hoodoos running out through the entire area. Their variety of color and shape is truly an impressive display of what nature can do.
Sadly, hoodoos do not actually last for very long, especially compared to other types of rock formations. The erosion that forms them also carries them away and removes 2–4 feet every 100 years. Some of the more durable hoodoos have a large amount of dolomite in them which protects the limestone from dissolving.
I highly recommend putting the hoodoos on your bucket of things to see and checking out this awesome geological phenomenon.
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