Monday, July 20, 2009

My World: Sheepeater Cliff

One of the interesting locations in Yellowstone is Sheepeater Cliff. It is named after a band of western Shoshone Indians who lived in the area who used to hunt big horned sheep. They were called Tukuaduka, which meant sheep eater.
The cliff was formed around 500,000 years ago during one of the basaltic floods of the Yellowstone Caldera. As the lava cooled it contracted and formed a set of joints perpendicular to the cooling surface. Today much of the basalt has tumbled down from the cliff due to weather erosion.
This loose rock is perfect habitat for the yellow-bellied marmot. These large members of the rodent family make their burrows under rock piles to help hide them from predators such as wolves, coyotes, and fox.
Unfortunately this marmot seemed to be habituated to humans and was not afraid of people at all. He came right up to both Michelle and I, as well as other people who were there, while we were shooting pics.
There were also plenty of chipmunk hanging out around Sheepeater. I am guessing that they also live in burrows under the rocks.
Sheepeater Cliff is just one example of columnar basalt cliff in Yellowstone. There are many other basalt cliffs in the Yellowstone area but most, like the ones near Bunson Peak are pretty in accessible. Fortunately Sheepeater Cliff is located adjacent to the Northern Grand Loop Road just south of Mammoth.

22 comments:

Arija said...

Such charming fauna in your beautiful world.

SandyCarlson said...

That's a really interesting rock formation. The marmot is new to me; thanks for the introduction.

Sarah said...

We live up in Northern Idaho..lots of basalt around here - hubby is a mineral guy. Love your shots of the critters too!!! I look forward to following your blog!! Sarah

James said...

Wonderful pictures of a really great place.

Janie said...

Interesting geology and history on the basalt cliffs.
Great marmot and chipmunk photos. Once we saw a marmot jump in a tourist's lap in the viewing circle around Old Faithful. They're definitely a little too habituated to humans.

Tranquility said...

Such adorable wildlife! What an interesting area - I must have missed it last during during our Yellowstone visit.

Luiz Ramos said...

Great Nature. Beautiful place.

Bonnie Bonsai said...

beautiful marmot (a counterpart of our wombat) and a cute chipmunk. Can he sing?

Interesting world in your wildlife!

Good morning from Down Under.

Marja said...

wow marvellous photo's and interesting information I love the marmot pictures. Many had them as a pet in Holland

Wren said...

Informative post and great photos. I've found that most rodents in touristy areas acclimate pretty thoroughly to people being around. Walking supermarkets, some of us.

Sylvia K said...

Terrific shots and post! Love the animals and the other shots brought back lots of memories from our travels through this area years ago!

Jack and Joann said...

Both great photos and great info. I'll be back.

Babooshka said...

Too precious. I wouldn't even see one of these in the wildlife park here.

Jenn Jilks said...

Great shots!

Elisabeth's bright side said...

Beautiful landscape shots, but I always fall for your exellent animal pictures. The Marmot and Chipmunk are so vivid. Have a great week!

Vicki ~ FL said...

I've been to Sheepshead Cliffs and they are so amazing to see up close. Thanks for the memories!

Carrizo said...

A very interesting photo blog with awesome photos.

Barb said...

The critters look as though they're posing for you! Very interesting info about the cliff and the Native Americans who hunted the Bighorns.

mkreider said...

Basalt formation is really neat. I saw some in Maine two years ago.

Kathiesbirds said...

Thanks for another view of yellowstone, one of my favorite places on earth!

Marites said...

Really interesting stone formation and it's too bad that it's deteriorating due to the erosion. Those are really cute and nice fauna pics!

My World is here

Steve B said...

Wonderful post. Love the whistle pig shots.