Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Bisti Wilderness Area (4/7/2016)

Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area in Northwest New Mexico is a very special place.  Seventy million years ago, it was a river delta or swampland near an inland sea, when this part of North America was located about where Panama is today.  Accumulated silt from various sources, volcanic ash and the remains of plants and animals were compressed over time into many varied layers of different compositions.  The uplift of the Colorado Plateau and the melting of the last glaciers in this region combined to erode the area and form some of the most unusual and interesting formations on the planet.  Soft soil supporting harder rock led to the creation of hoodoos, where the lower soil erodes faster than the rock above.  Some of the rock layers were "glazed" by underground coal fires ignited by lightning. The colors range from white, gray, green, black, purple, brown to red.

This is my third trip to Bisti, with stays of several days each time.  No matter how many times you see it, you can never see the entire 45,000 acre wilderness area, besides which it changes color with ambient lighting changes, and the shapes are constantly modified by wind and rain.  It is a desolate place, one with the darkest skies and loudest silence you can imagine.  The prevailing soil layer is a finely ground clay-like silt that becomes very sticky when wet.  It is unthinkable to walk on it after a rain, although the BLM has done a good job of improving drainage for the area.  Not only does it dry more quickly now, but the drainage ditches seem to attract more birds and a few rabbits now.

The day I arrived was gloomy and heavily overcast, not the best conditions for photography.  Nonetheless, I ventured out and snapped off about 100 shots.

The red rocks seen in many places are small shards of sandstone that were glazed by the underground fires.

People who visit like to play the game of imagining what each particular rock or hoodoo looks like.  Some have become well known by the name given by early visitors.  I think this is a sturgeon.

It can be difficult to access particular formations, even though GPS coordinates are readily available on the internet.  GPS will provide a direct path to the desired location, but this may entail walking and climbing over some wicked terrain.  Often it is wise to take a longer route and go around some of the large hills.  Climbing them can be tricky due to soft soil and loose rock, and you wouldn't want to damage the fragile formations.

One of the more popular areas is known as the "Egg Factory", "Egg Hatchery", or Cracked Eggs".  I don't find it as appealing as others, but everyone who comes to Bisti wants to see this.  This photo was taken near dark, when the sunset failed to develop the lighting I had hoped for.

Here are a few of the individual rocks found in the Egg Factory.  I really don't see how they came to be seen as eggs, they look more like marine animals to me.
Sea Turtle?


Here is the sunset from that evening.  Not bad, but it just didn't light the eggs as it often does.


  1. Great, Stan I just added it to my list of places to see.
    Ed Massart

  2. Love, Love, Love this place!!! Reminds me of home in a lot of ways.

  3. you need to do some night shots out there - they would be epic

  4. I met a guy out there doing just that. he tried to talk me into losing sleep and learning to shoot stars. I've just never been interested, such limited interests.