500,000 years ago in the Yellowstone Caldera also known as Yellowstone Supervolcano, a series of huge volcanic eruptions occurred. Huge floods of basaltic lava were frequent. These floods of basaltic lava created the Sheepeater Cliffs. They were named after Western Shoshone known as tukuaduka (Sheep eaters).
It is quite surprising to see these hexagonal columns of Lava with well-defined joints. This cliff is located on the Grand loop road. The Grand loop road start at the junction of the North Entrance Road near Mammoth Hot Springs. This road enables access to many of the tourist attractions of the Yellowstone National Park. Looking at the Sheepeater Cliffs located at these GPS coordinates will help you appreciate how powerful the forces of nature earth really are.
When large masses of basaltic lava cool slowly, they form large polygonal joint patterns. They are predominantly hexagonal but polygon of three to twelve sides are common. They are often rich in Iron which explains the rusty color they takes over time. Pay attention, they can acquire strong magnetic signature when cooling and in turns might impact your compass if you are near these formations.
Basaltic lava is generally liquid over 1200 °C and solid under 1000 °C.
Should you go to Yellowstone, take the time to go see Sheepeater Cliff. This will help you appreciate how our planet has evolved over time and hopefully will make you more earth friendly in your daily activities.
I chose to keep only the patterns created by these columns of basalt. This is not a strong composition. I did this on purpose. My intent here is to create a picture that raises curiosity. No sense of scale, this could be anything. Should you want to know more about Sheepeater Cliff, please read the many articles that you can find on Internet via Google.
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