After our last post on the Ah-She-Sli-Pah Badlands, it occurred to us that many people may not know what the terms badlands and hoodoos mean. They are common terms here in the Southwestern US, but may not be common elsewhere.
Badlands are a type of terrain which is typically unusable due to aridness, barrenness, and erosion. They are quite literally “bad lands.” They are often characterized by amazing colors and shapes formed from layered sedimentary rocks extensively eroded by wind and water. Each badland is visually unique and they frequently look like something from a Dr. Seuss book. Canyons and hoodoos are common in badlands. Badlands can be difficult to traverse due to steep (sometimes unstable) slopes, sandy or rocky canyon bottoms, arid conditions, lack of shade, temperature extremes, remoteness, etc. It is extremely easy to get lost in the badlands. Badlands often contain fossil beds and visible coal seams. The extreme erosion found in badlands tends to expose fossils in the sedimentary layers while the lack of vegetation makes them easier to spot. Movie and film crews often utilize badlands for westerns or sci-fi shows (as they resemble Martian or lunar terrains).
Hoodoos are spires of rock that rise from the bottom of a badland. They are also known as tent rocks. Hoodoos consist of relatively soft (i.e., easily eroded) rock topped by a harder (i.e., less easily eroded) stone called a caprock. The harder caprock shields and protects the underlying softer rock from the elements. Hoodoos can range in height from mere inches to hundreds of feet. The layering of sediments causes many hoodoos to have different colors throughout their structure.
New Mexico is home to a number of badlands and their accompanying hoodoos. You can see examples of badlands and hoodoos in our Ah-She-Sli-Pah Badlands gallery and upcoming galleries of the Mesa de Cuba Badlands, the Ojito Badlands, and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.