The going is easy now on on Highway 92 through Nebraska’s Mitchell Pass with its prominent sandstone formations on each side. But the journey was rugged during the Westward Expansion of the mid-1800’s when pioneers crossed in covered wagons over unpredictable terrain. These rock sentinels, assuring them that they were not lost, were a welcome sight! Today, wooden signposts mark the places where the Oregon Trail passed through the area and the land is protected as a part of Scotts Bluff National Monument.
These four arches are a small sample of the many sculptured rock formations in Utah’s Arches National Park. In fact, people who count the arches in the park say there are 2,000 of them ranging in width from three feet to 306 feet. The state of the arches is changing all the time, with new ones being formed by ice, water and other environmental factors while others crumble away. Although it is still strong and not crumbling, the first in this series is named for the large crack at the center of the arch.
In geological terms, Heart Mountain’s flat-topped shape is caused by a thrust fault, the pushing up of younger rocks above older ones, and subsequent erosion. These distinctive formations are called klippes. In human terms, it was in the shadow of this mountain outside of Cody, Wyoming, that over 10,000 Japanese-Americans were held in an encampment after the World War II bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Today the site is a National Historic Landmark comprised of an outdoor interpretive center and a museum, which together provide visitors with an intimate view of what daily life was like in the camp.
The badlands of South Dakota form a vast protected wilderness today. However, paleontological evidence shows that ancient Native Americans used the area as their hunting grounds, as did the tribes of the Sioux Nation in later years. The stratified layers of sedimentary rock show the changes over eons in the earth’s surface, which first emerged from under the sea as tropical land and then slowly changed to open woodland. Gray bands show evidence of volcanic eruptions at certain times in history. Geologists now have a good idea of what each layer represents, and there are many strata!