Geology In Plain View . . . Big Bend Ranch State Park

Sometimes, still, the sky is magic. This March, the skies over Big Bend Ranch State Park in Texas provided just the inspiring backdrop needed to explore the amazing geology of this place.

Here the tail end of the Appalachian Mountains is exposed – the folded and crunched Ouachita-Marathon Orogeny in full display on a ridge in the Solitario where the continents collided to form Pangea.

I camped below the jagged face of the Solitario where a collapsed lava dome pushed the ancient Paleozoic rocks skyward in a giant upheaval about 35 million years ago. A hike through several of the drainages of this vast dome – called ‘shutups’ because of the ease of fencing and containing livestock during the ranching era – shows a range to rock layers from the Paleozoic to more recent volcanic activity 27 million years ago. As shown in this photo in the Righthand Shutup, all of these rock types can be scattered in one view.

I’ve organized my images from this inspiring trip – the first of many – into a slideshow that includes the Solitario, Fresno Canyon and Guale Mesa. I can’t wait to get back. Despite my pessimism about landscape photography because of climate change, smoke, heat and drought, Big Bend Ranch State Park is still an amazing place to visit in the spring and fall when conditions are right.

Here’s a video to share.