Hoodoos and Fools
Aug 14, 2010
|When people are dumber than rocks
Today we left Drumheller and drove east, headed for Dinosaur Provincial Park. Out of Drumheller the road follows the Red Deer River for a while, winding through the valley badlands. A few miles east of town we stopped to see the Hoodoos. There will a lot more hoodoos in the park, but these are along the road and there’s a turnout where you can park and follow a trail that takes you up to see them.
Hoodoos are formations that seem to rise up out of the surrounding landscape to stand alone, or in groups, in human-like poses. There’s an air of mystery about hoodoos. Aboriginal people thought they were evil spirits, and to the Blackfeet they are the spirits of bad mothers. Maybe that’s why people deface them.
Like most features of the landscape hoodoos are formed by erosion, but in this case they are columns of earth that have resisted erosion as the soil around them was worn away. Protected by a hard capstone, the column beneath it grows slowly as the land around it is carried off. Hoodoos don’t rise up out of the ground, they just remain standing as the ground level drops around them. They may stand for a thousand years but like everything else, hoodoos are transient. Eventually they too will wear away and disappear.
The trail that winds through them is marked with signs and tape, meant to keep people on the trail and at a respectful distance. Most people honor that request but there are always ‘special’ people who feel entitled to ignore the obvious and go where they please. These folks see the tape as a challenge, and everywhere there are signs of their stupidity.
The earth here contains a chemical which makes it extremely slippery when it’s wet. As the surface dries it sets up a trap. The ground looks dry but the mud below it is still wet. We watched horses slip and slide in it, and fortunately most of the vandals slipped too. Footprints up the base of a formation usually end in a big slide where the idiot fell on his or her ass. Simple justice, because this mud is also hard to get off!
Signs talk about how damage to the base of a hoodoo hastens erosion and shortens it’s life. The information and the concept seem so basic that you’d think only a kid would ignore it, but I watched an adult woman use her finger to carve her name into the base of a formation. Shame on you NOELL - for setting such a rotten example to your two kids! Now they can grow up to be morons like you - and if the Blackfeet are right maybe someday you’ll be a hoodoo yourself!
Past the hoodoos the road climbed out of the river valley and for the next hour and a half we saw the river only occasionally as we cut across the flat prairie toward the park. We reached the park shortly after noon, and at their Visitor Center we booked first a half hour Lab Talk, and then a tour of the Preserve. Both were conducted by guides so knowledgeable and enthusiastic it couldn’t help but transfer to their audience.
On the Preserve we did not visit any current excavation sites, but our guide Erica pointed out several in the distance. She took us to two sites of previous excavations, where the bones discovered could be seen still embedded in the rocks as they were found.
Of some 200 species of dinosaur so far identified, an incredible 42 species have been found here in Dinosaur Park. Several of them were the first ever found. In addition to the 42 dinosaur species, the fossilized remains of nearly 200 other species have been found here, making this preserve one of the richest deposits of bones in the world. This preserve is unique because it also represents a relatively narrow window of time. Layers range in age from 69 million years to 79 million years. In layman’s terms 10 million years sounds like a long time, but in Paleontologist terms it’s the blink of an eye.
Due to the weekend the park campground was full so we drove west for an hour before stopping. It will shorten our drive to the Canadian Rockies tomorrow, and with so much to think and talk about the hour went by ‘in the blink of an eye’.