By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 9/20/2019
Occurred: 10/5/2016
Topics/Keywords: #BistiBadlands #NewMexico #Shiprock Page Views: 1145
Photos from our short hike in Northern New Mexico

Keith, his twin brother, Chris, and I took a day trip to visit the Bisti Badlands Wilderness Area. It's south of Farmington, the nearest large community to Shiprock.

Feel free to tap or click on any photo to see it full-screen. From there, browse all the pictures on the page by tapping or clicking on the arrows on the side. If you have a full-sized keyboard, you may also use the arrow keys. Click on the picture to toggle viewing any captions that may be present.

The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a 45,000-acre wilderness area located about 2 hours' drive from Shiprock, New Mexico.

Paul S Cilwa

It is on the Trails of the Ancients Byway, one of the designated New Mexico Scenic Byways. Established in 1984, the Wilderness is a desolate area of steeply eroded badlands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, with the exception of three parcels of private Navajo land within its boundaries.

Paul S Cilwa

Translated from the Navajo word Bistah�, Bisti means "among the adobe formations." The formations are indeed, adobe—dried mud—but this mud dried many millions of years ago.

this mud dried many millions of years ago."/>
Paul S Cilwa

The area that includes the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness was once a riverine delta that lay just to the west of the shore of an ancient sea, the Western Interior Seaway, which covered much of New Mexico 70 million years ago.

Paul S Cilwa

The motion of water through and around the ancient river built up layers of sediment. Swamps and the occasional pond bordering the stream left behind large buildups of organic material, in the form of what became beds of lignite. At some point, a volcano deposited a large amount of ash, and the river moved the ash from its original locations.

Paul S Cilwa

As the water slowly receded, prehistoric animals survived on the lush foliage that grew along the many riverbanks. When the water disappeared it left behind a 1,400-foot (430 m) layer of jumbled sandstone, mudstone, shale, and coal that lay undisturbed for fifty million years.

Paul S Cilwa
Paul S Cilwa

Sandstone layers were deposited above the ash and remains of the delta. The ancient sedimentary deposits were uplifted with the rest of the Colorado Plateau, starting about 25 million years ago.

Paul S Cilwa

Six thousand years ago the last ice age receded, and the waters of the melting glaciers helped expose fossils and petrified wood, and eroded the rock into the hoodoos now visible.

Paul S Cilwa

Chris climbing a hoodoo, or rock formation.

Chris climbing a hoodoo, or rock formation.
Paul S Cilwa

Keith

Keith
Paul S Cilwa

Your Friendly Neighborhood Blogger

Your Friendly Neighborhood Blogger
Keith Jim
Paul S Cilwa
Paul S Cilwa
Paul S Cilwa

The Wilderness badlands result from the erosion of the sandy layers of the Ojo Alamo formation, which has left bare the thick deposit of volcanic ash and below that the Fruitland formation and the Kirtland Shale. The western side of the Wilderness, formerly called the Bisti Wilderness, is primarily Fruitland Formation. The eastern side of the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, formerly called the De-Na-Zin Wilderness, exposes the Kirtland Shale. The ash covers much of these features. When the Wilderness area was still deep underground, water often and easily found its way into the ashy layers. The water left behind deposits of lime that eventually built up and became limestone tubes. As the softer layers wore away, the tubes became exposed. The caps of many of the all-gray hoodoos in the Bisti/De-Na-Zin wilderness are limestone.

Paul S Cilwa

Ash erodes very quickly and does not hold water long. These two qualities make for poor growing conditions and explains the general lack of plant life. The lignite beds, left by swamps 70 million years ago, now lie exposed on the broad wash that forms the floor of the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness badlands. Those lignite mounds coincide with most of the petrified wood and fossils found in the Wilderness. Generally, the organic remains are harder than lignite, so they weather out as the lignite erodes. The fossils in the Wilderness preserve a record of freshwater life in and on the edge of the great delta at that time.

Paul S Cilwa
Paul S Cilwa

Coal was present in the Wilderness, and much of that coal burned in an ancient fire that lasted centuries. The clay over the coal layer was metamorphosed by the heat into red "clinkers" that look today like tiny pottery sherds or perhaps chunks of brick, depending on size. They vary from pale to bright red and can even take on a crimson hue. Their name, "clinker," derives from the characteristic sound these stones make when walked on. The ash, lignite beds and clinkers account for the characteristic gray, black, and red colors of the Wilderness.

Paul S Cilwa
Paul S Cilwa
Paul S Cilwa
Paul S Cilwa
Paul S Cilwa

Days after a rain, water remains in washes.

Days after a rain, water remains in washes.
Paul S Cilwa
Paul S Cilwa
Paul S Cilwa
Paul S Cilwa
Paul S Cilwa
Paul S Cilwa
Paul S Cilwa