Classic hoodoos are like stone mushrooms found in arid regions. They are generally tall slender spires of rock standing on or near the ledge of a drainage basin or in a badland formation.
The stem of the mushroom consists of soft sedimentary rock topped by a much harder, less easily-eroded capstone made of a different kind of stone. The capstone forms the hood of the mushroom.
Hoodoos come in many shapes, sizes and colors. I’ve seen them as small as a few inches and as tall as a 10 story building.
How Do Hoodoos Form?
Hoodoos are formed by slow erosion in regions that remain geologically stable over great lengths of time. That is how they are able to acquire their delicate, whimsical shapes.
Through various types of water and wind erosion soft sedimentary stone is slowly washed away. In Bryce Canyon Utah USA, for example, about 4 to 5 feet of sedimentary stone is washed away every 100 years.
However, large stones sitting on top of the sedimentary layer protect it from erosion. Over time as the rest of the sedimentary deposits wash away, the part just under the capstone doesn’t. Over a few hundred years or so the delicate spire below the rock grows and grows.
Their precarious nature is what makes hoodoos such fascinating photography subjects.
Pinnacle Rock is the name I made up for this hoodoo. It doesn’t have a real name. It’s one of those great unexpected discoveries that makes lengthy, bone-jarring rides over lonely, unmarked dirt roads followed by a long solitary hike across a high plateau to a perilous climb down dangerous cliffs worth all the effort.
I had a blast!
This picture was shot wide-angled, close-up at 30mm. There is only about a 3 foot edge between this hoodoo and a 50 foot drop behind me. My heels were literally over the edge for this shot.
This is another of the many spectacular anonymous hoodoos spread across the arid southwest that I’ve photographed and given names.
The name I gave this one reveals its location but that is a little secret that remains just between me and the hoodoo. 🙂
This one is high atop a slick rock hill just off a traveled highway. Though plainly visible from the road if you know where to look, few people ever see it and even fewer climb the slick rock to take its picture.
The White Camel
What is cool about this hoodoo is that it shows what happens when one loses its capstone.
On the left is a classic hoodoo forming the neck and head of the camel. It is topped with a hard Dakota Sandstone cap.
On the right is a mound of white Entrada Sandstone that makes up the camel’s hump.
The hump is a hoodoo that has lost its capstone!
After the protective capstone of a hoodoo is lost for one reason or another then the remaining pedestal is no longer protected and the forces of erosion work on it full force. It is first rounded and then eventually washed away over time.
Geologically speaking, this one just lost its capstone!
Camel-like hoodoos like this one are actually fairly common.
A Hoodoo’s Worst Enemy
Because they are so delicate and take so many years to form, the hoodoo’s worst enemies are human vandals who deface their pedestals and steal their capstones. That is why many photographers jealously guard their secret locations.
The Suevi Warriors
This tiny group of hoodoos are unique in all the world for their sulfurous yellow pedestals.
I named them for the German photographer, Steffen Synnatschke, who first published pictures of them in 2008.
“Suevi” is a word of Germanic origin that means “one’s own people”. That is a very appropriate word for describing this uniquely colored set of hoodoos. Their low, flat capstones give them a menacing look like agile warriors on the attack. Hence the name “Suevi Warriors”.
The Suevi were once a tiny society of people mentioned as far back as Roman times. Though there is much discussion about what happened to them in ancient writings, their ultimate fate is unknown and they have vanished from the face of the earth.
To my knowledge there is only one other American that has ever published photographes of these special hoodoos.
Here are a few more images of a fascinating geology to photograph.