Rock formations are created by the elements such as heat, wind, rain, and erosion. What nature has done with these tools on the palette of the earth is both breath taking and mind boggling. These incredible natural rock formations were created slowly over millions of years using the hardest materials. Thankfully for us, nature is a patient artist.
An overview of the most incredible natural rock formations on the planet:
Located close to the western coast of Madagascar, the Tsingy de Bemaraha reserve is a karstic landscape of sharp limestone pinnacles called tsingy. The spectacular canyon of the Manambolo river and rolling hills cut through the tsingy creating a diverse landscape. The undisturbed forests, lakes and mangrove swamps of the national park are the habitat for rare and endangered lemurs and birds.
Shilin, which means “Stone Forest” in Chinese, is a set of karst formations in southwest China. The stones jut from the earth similar to the way a stalagmite does in a cave. These stones are thought to be 270 million years old. The area was an ocean floor and the flow of water created the majestic pinnacles. The stone forest receives over 2 million visitors a year.
Situated about 45 km north of the Farafra oasis in the vast Western Desert of Egypt, the White Desert is made of oddly shaped chalk formation. In clear contrast with the yellowish brown of the surrounding desert, the White Desert is stark white reminding of an Arctic landscape. The soft chalk material, at the mercy of the elements has been contoured into amazing shapes. A few of the shapes resemble marshmallows, camels, and mushrooms. The imagination goes wild in this very remote spot.
Despite the name, Bryce Canyon National Park is actually not a canyon, but rather a series of giant amphitheaters filled with colorful pinnacles. The natural rock formations were caused by wind and water erosion on limestone. The colors of red, orange, and white provide an ever changing visual treat. The pinnacles are also known as hoodoos and reach up to 61 meters (200 feet) high. Bryce Canyon is recognized for its great air quality and visibility can be up to 200 miles.
The Bungle Bungle Range is located in Purnululu National Park in western Australia. The range rises up to 578 meters (1896 feet) above sea level and consists of distinctive sandstone domes striped with alternating orange and grey bands. The banding of the domes are due to differences in clay content and porosity of the sandstone layers. The orange bands are a thin layer of iron oxide while the grey banding is cyanobacteria which grows on the layers where moisture accumulates.
Located on the Northeast coast of Ireland, The Giant’s Causeway is a spectacular rock formation consisting of basalt columns formed 50 to 60 million years ago. As volcanic activity pushed the basalt through chalk, the columns shot in vertical direction. As they cooled, they cracked forming a hexagonal shape. Although the columns rise up to 12 meters (36 feet) high and are marvels to view, this causeway has another amazing feature. Many of the columns have eroded until only the tops are visible. This creates an intricate cobblestone type natural walkway, so detailed that it appears as if stone masons laid them.
Another piece of nature’s artwork found in Utah, the Arches National Park is known for its inspiring natural arches. Salt beds deposited 300 million years ago from the receding ocean helped form the more than 2000 arches in the park. As the salt shifted, the rock layered on top began to move creating domes and fins. As rain and ice found its way into crevices, it eroded the top Entrada and Navajo sandstone. Add wind to the mix and over the course of millions of years, the amazing arches formed.
The Chocolate Hills are unusual geological formations that consists of at least 1,268 individual mounds scattered throughout the interior of the island of Bohol in the Philippines. The almost symmetrical and same-sized formations range from 30 to 50 meters (98 to 164 feet) high and are covered in green grass. During the dry season the grass turns brow, hence the name. Geologists have not reached any consensus on how these giant mole hills were formed. One theory holds that the Chocolate Hills are the weathered rock formations of a kind of marine limestone on top of a impermeable layer of clay.
Up to 300 meter (1000 foot) sandstone buttes and mesas make up the Monument Valley which is located on the border of Utah and Arizona. Probably the most famous example of the classic American West landscape the area has been the backdrop for numerous western movies, ranging from Stagecoach starring John Wayne to Back to the Future II. Technically it is not a valley at all, but a wide flat landscape interrupted by the crumbling rock formations. The buttes are all that is left from the sandstone layers that once covered the entire region and have vivid red tones from the iron oxide.
Cappadocia, a region famous for its weird and wonderful natural rock formations and one of the top attractions in Turkey. One of the best places to see these strange formations is the town of Göreme, which is located among a large number of tuff cones, termed fairy chimneys. The fairy chimneys have been formed as the result of wind and water erosion of two different volcanic layers. A thick layer of tuff (consolidated volcanic ash) covered by a thin layer of basalt that is more resistant to erosion. Due to the ease of carving into the tuff, many of the fairy chimneys have been hollowed out over the centuries to create houses, churches and storage facilities.