The southwestern part of the United States has many great scenic wonders: magnificent mountain ranges, soaring canyons, deserts, mesas, ancient cliff dwellings. However, one of the scenic wonders of the Colorado plateau region is less known by many who don’t live in the Southwest. It is the land of the hoodoos. What is a hoodoo you may ask. Look up the word in the dictionary and you get several definitions: 1) a form of voodoo, 2) something that brings bad luck, and 3) a natural column of rock often in fantastic shapes. The hoodoos of the Southwest (also called tent rocks, or fairy towers) are definitely not bad luck, but can be good luck for those who take the time to visit them and appreciate their wonders. They inspire awe and mystery and come in many fantastic shapes. They are found in the high deserts of the Colorado Plateau from northern New Mexico to southern Colorado and Utah. Perhaps some poetry and pictures can better explain the beauty and mystery of these rock formations.
Hoodoo Badlands By Ken Bell
You stand silently on
gray powder dirt hills
surveying the starkness, the quiet of
your colorless world.
even your name conjures up the magical.
You skinny rock wizards of the desert wind,
where did you come from?
How long have you stood here, watching?
Some think you’re beautiful.
I’m attracted to your mystery.
There are numerous places for the visitor to see these wonderful rock formations. One largely unknown and therefore more adventurous is the Bisti Wilderness, a site managed by the US Bureau of Land Management, and located about 36 miles south of Farmington, New Mexico. The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a 45,000-acre desolate area of steeply eroded grey hills. It is an amazingly scenic and colorful expanse of eroded rock formations. This area is free to enter . There are no signposts pointing the way, but the usual approach is via New Mexico road NM371 heading south from Farmington. This road heads south through wide open prairie land at the east edge of the Navajo Reservation. After 36 miles a historical marker records the location of the Bisti Trading Post, now abandoned. The main entrance to the badlands is 6.5 miles further south. From the parking area, the visitor is free to wonder the land in several directions. Trails are few, there is no water, and it can be hot in the summer months, so take care to bring water, dress appropriately, and keep cognizant of the way back to the parking area.
A more known area to view hoodoos is Bryce Canyon National Park in southwestern Utah. Bryce Canyon has the largest number of hoodoos of anywhere in the world. It is not really a canyon, but a collection of natural amphitheaters. Bryce rock is more colorful than the grayer rock of the Bisti area. Some of the hoodoos at Bryce are close to 200 feet tall. Most park visitors sightsee using the scenic drive, which has 13 access viewpoints. Also Bryce has eight marked and maintained hiking trails that can be hiked in less than a day. There are two campgrounds in the park, and the park is open year round.
There are many other hoodoo sites all over the southwest, waiting for the adventurous traveler to discover and explore.