Friday, August 27, 2010

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Our 26th president came out to the badlands at the age of 20 years and it changed his life forever, both in his development as a man and as a president. He bought two ranches out here. The first home he built has been moved to the park and the public is able to tour it. I was impressed by the fact that the cabin still had his desk, hutch and rocking chair in it. Below is a picture of the section of kitchen which had his desk.
 Theodore Roosevelt described the badlands as a "land of vast silent spaces and a place of grim beauty". That does about sum it up correctly. As John and I drove through the park yesterday we commented to each other that those same sandstone rock structures were pretty much what we had seen all over Montana. I do want to correct what I had said in my last posting, that the badlands have no vegetation. Whether the badlands have vegetation or not actually depends on the kind of rock located in each particular area, as well as how much erosion has been occurring. And you can not ignore the essential factor of the amount of water in each area either. At the visitor's center in the park I learned more about concretions, which I had written about a couple of postings back. Concretions are of two variety; cannonballs and hoodoos. Below is a picture of a cluster of hoodoos tangled together which we saw in the park. I was in error before when I said they are always a single spire of rock. Over time erosion is constantly changing their shapes.
 Prominent throughout the badlands are layers of brick-red rock, locally called "scoria" but more properly termed clinker. Below is a picture of that rock layer. Its red color results from the baking process of coal.
True scoria forms from volcanic eruptions,which has never occurred in this area. Scoria here has been formed by the burning of the bands of black ignite coal which is sometimes present in the rock of the badlands.  As far back as 9,000 years ago exposed coal periodically caught fire and sometimes burned for decades. The fire that burned in the coal vein trail, which we hiked yesterday while in the park, lasted from 1951-1977. With the assistance of a park brochure we were able to see the whole progression of events along the trail; a coal seam, clinkers which formed from the coal burning, the slump of the earth (burning underground coal seams weaken a hill's structure), and the grassland which appeared once the fire burned out. Native species again reclaimed the area. While in the park we also saw some wildlife. More on that in my next posting.

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