September 20, 2010

Spearfish Canyon, Black Hills NF, South Dakota

The temperatures are supposed to rise into the mid-80's today, before cooling back into the upper 60's this week. But, alas today is a work day, so no hiking. So, while I work, Linda and Hilina are off exploring the old fish hatchery, walking the many trails through the woods, and utilizing Spearfish's wonderful city park and play ground.

Spearfish is a great little town about 40 minutes from the "big-city" life of Rapid City. If it wasn't so dang cold here in winter, this might be a place to consider living.

Just out of town is the beautiful Spearfish Canyon. These 320-240 million year old limestone walls, up to 1,000 feet high in places, are the remains of shallow coral reef formations of the inland sea that split right across central North America during the Carboniferous period. This was a time before the dinosaurs, when only amphibians, primitive reptiles, and insects roamed the land.

About 60 million years ago, the Black Hills began to rise up forming a dome up to 15,000 feet high. Erosion has dropped it down to 7,000 feet and the canyon itself began to form about 5 million years ago when Spearfish Creek began eating through the overlying sandstone and into these limestone layers.

It is a beautiful landscape reminescent of those we've seen in Arizona along the Mogollon Rim. Except, the tree species are different, containing eastern species like elm, and lots of northern boreal species like White Spruce, aspen, and paper birch, as well as, the ubiquitous Ponderosa pine.

For anyone visiting the Black Hills, Spearfish Canyon is not to be missed! Just take Hwy 14a out of Spearfish and do the 70 mile loop that takes you through the canyon, over to historic Deadwood, out to Sturgis, and then back on I-90 to Spearfish.

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