Scientists Say: Hoodoo

Tall spires of rock get this special name


These fantastical towers in Bryce Canyon National Park aren’t manmade. They are hoodoos, the natural result of wind and weather.

B. Brookshire/SSP

Hoodoo (noun, “WHO-do”)

In geology, this is a tall spire of rock. Hoodoos usually form in dry areas such as deserts. These rock formations occur where many layers of soft rock — such as sandstone — are capped with a thin layer of harder rock. Over time, openings in the protective outer rock allows the softer rock beneath to wear away. But some of the thin cap of harder rock remains. And it can protect the rock that sits directly beneath it. Over eons, most of the rock disappears, leaving behind the occasional rocky tower, often with a larger cap on the top. Hoodoos can be anywhere from 1.5 to 45 meters (4.9 to 148 feet) tall.

In a sentence

Deserts in the Western United States host a lot of hoodoos, particularly in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park. 

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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