Alabama Arch

July 30, 2004

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Provided by: Thomas McGuire, Textbook Author/Educator
Summary authors & editors: Thomas McGuire

The Alabama Hills of eastern California is very familiar to professional photographers and movie directors. Thanks to dozens of Hollywood films made ere, many of us think of the West as a vast land of towering peaks, narrow box canyons and rounded granite boulders. The rocks in these "hills" were made by a series of intrusions of Mesozoic granite. Spheroidal weathering along jointing surfaces within the relatively uniform granite constantly shapes the rocks. This natural weathering has left great boulders across the hills and even natural stone arches, as shown above.

Contrary to their name, the Alabama Hills bear little or no resemblance to the mountains of America's Cotton State. Instead, they were named after the Confederate warship responsible for wreaking havoc to northern shipping during the Civil War. News of her victorious naval exploits reached them across America's frontier. Prospectors, sympathetic to the Southern cause, named their mining claims after the Alabama. Eventually, the name stuck to these unique hills.

In the distance (back left) is the tallest peak in the Sierra Nevada, Mount Whitney (14,494 ft. or 4,418 m). It's also the highest mountain in the "Lower 48" of the United States.

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