July 08, 2002
The unusual geological term "hoodoo" is given to a rock formation that is equally bizarre in appearance. Hoodoos are natural pillars or columns that occur in an unlimited variety of shapes; imagination turns them into mushrooms, gnomes, or other creatures of fantasy. Hoodoos typically occur in "badland" areas -- regions where differential erosion along a receding escarpment has turned the land into a maze of steep ridges and pinnacles. Balanced rocks are created when caprocks of harder overlying material are left isolated by the erosion of softer underlying layers all around them.
The hoodoos shown here, along Peralta Canyon in north-central New Mexico, are known as the Tent Rocks. The name comes from their unusually symmetrical cone-shaped bases, formed from a layer of easily-eroded volcanic ash known as "tuff." These deposits were created 6 to 7 million years ago by the volcanoes of the Pajarito Plateau. This area was designated Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument on January 17, 2001.