Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

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Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument photographed 03/2008 near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Located in northwestern New Mexico, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument preserves an amazing landscape of volcanic rock formations. Nestled among the Jemez Mountains, this region has experienced intermittent volcanic activity for the last 15 million years.

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Hoodoo rocks photographed 03/2008 at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The rocks present at this park were deposited between 6 and 7 million years ago during a series of explosive rhyolitic eruptions. Vast amounts of ash and larger pyroclasts were deposited deeply over the area. Later buried by younger sediment and packed into rock, they have been again exposed to the elements. Known as the Peralta Tuff, this 1,000-foot thick section of hardened ash is interbedded with sand and gravel:

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Interbedded tuff and gravel photographed 03/2008 at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Larger gravel fragments have lead to the formation of the namesake tent rocks:

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Hoodoo rock photographed 03/2008 at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Rain and wind erosion easily wear away at the relatively soft tuff. In many spots, however, large pieces of gravel present obstacles to erosion. These rocks protect the soft ash beneath them from rain, leading to the conical structures that litter the area.  

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Hoodoo rocks photographed 03/2008 at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Eventually even these harder stones fall victim to erosion and fall away, and erosion begins to work away more rapidly at the bare tuff cones left behind.

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Hoodoo rocks photographed 03/2008 at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

An excellent hiking trail offers a strenuous but intimate way to experience the geology and scenery.

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Trail marker photographed 03/2008 at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This 2.6 mile round-trip trail has over 600 feet of elevation gain beginning in a narrow slot canyon:

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Mouth of the canyon. Photographed 03/2008 at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“Kasha-Katuwe” means “white cliffs” in the Keresan language of the ancestral Pueblo people. Looking at the photo above, it’s not hard to see why it earned this native name.

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Creek bed in the canyon. Photographed 03/2008 at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The first part of the canyon trail follows a creek bed between the towering cliffs.

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Canyon walls photographed 03/2008 at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The tight squeezes involved made for an interesting hike through this beautiful landscape. Although pleasant in dry times, there was evidence of torrential flash flooding during rainstorms:

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Pine roots exposed by flash floods in the canyon. Photographed 03/2008 at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In many places the the roots of the local pines and other trees were exposed by intermittent floodwater.

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Hoodoo rocks photographed 03/2008 at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

From the bottom of the canyon the tent rocks loomed ominously overhead.

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Hoodoo rocks photographed 03/2008 at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Before long the trail began to ascend, presenting some better views of the geologic formations:

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Hoodoo rocks photographed 03/2008 at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

These views only got better with elevation:

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Hoodoo rocks photographed 03/2008 at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Hoodoo rocks photographed 03/2008 at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Near the top the views of the surrounding mountains were spectacular:

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Hoodoo rocks photographed 03/2008 at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The end of the trail also provided a great overview of the tent rock formations:

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Hoodoo rocks photographed 03/2008 at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks is what I would consider a textbook “hidden gem” among America’s natural wonders. Although a national monument it’s administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and not the National Park Service (NPS), so it lacks some publicity. Few people visit this location to experience its excellent hiking, remote beauty, and fascinating natural features. I love empty out-of-the-way places like this, and I highly recommend it for those seeking the same experience.

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Hoodoo rocks photographed 03/2008 at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Culture, Geology, National Parks, Weather and Climate and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

  1. That looks like a great area. I love the various ways that rock forms and erodes.

    Like

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