Sheepeater Cliff in Yellowstone

A quick in-depth exploring of Sheepeater Cliff in Yellowstone

The Sheepeater cliffs. These are named after the sheepeater Native American tribe.

The Sheepeater cliffs. These are named after the sheepeater Native American tribe. Image by: A softer answer on Wikimedia commons. CC 3.0.

To spend any amount of time whatsoever in Yellowstone National Park is to get the opportunity to experience the epitome of the American landscape – its beautiful grass filled basins, its stunning mountain peaks and cliffs, its raging rapids and deep canyons, and a million and more hidden secrets dotted across the Yellowstone landscape for enterprising explorers, vacationers, and campers to investigate all on their own.

People visiting Yellowstone go into this experience knowing that they are going to come across some amazing pieces of the American landscape, but there’s just no real way to completely prepare yourself for all of the truly stunning visuals that present themselves when they visit a park location like the Sheepeater Cliff in Yellowstone.

A perfect representation of the hexagonal basalt formations caused by volcanic activity

A lot of first-time visitors to the park (and a number of “Yellowstone veterans” alike) come to regard the Sheepeater Cliff in Yellowstone as a rock formation created by glacial activity during the last Ice Age. But the truth matter is that this cliff is significantly older than that – and has nothing whatsoever to do with ice, but instead everything to do with red-hot lava and magma from the volcanic activity in the region.

According to researchers, scientists, and the Yellowstone Parks Committee, the Sheepeater Cliff in Yellowstone was not created by the receding glaciers that caused mountain formations like the Rockies, but instead by a literal lake of lava that flowed across the area about 500,000 years ago.

The lava deposited the basalt in the region, and over time Mother Nature worked to wear those lava deposits down. Parts of the basalt deposits were left exposed, and that’s what gets that this particular cliff its unique “carved columns” look.

It may look as though it was chiseled right out of the surrounding landscape, but good old-fashioned erosion did the damage and sculpted this outcrop of basalt – after that lake of lava cooled down, of course!

Contrary to popular belief, no sheep are eaten on this Cliff!

Though the name Sheepeater Cliff probably conjures up some pretty graphic visuals, especially if you know the history of the active wolf packs in the park, but the name given to this Cliff is a lot tamer and significantly milder than most folks are aware of.

These bands of basalt columns at Sheepeater Cliff were named after the tribe of local Indians in the region, the Eastern Shoshone. These Indians were called the Tukuaduka (literally translated to sheep eaters), and legend has it that they would hide up in these cliffs avoid warring tribes whenever trouble started to brew in the region.

Most of the Sheepeater Cliff in Yellowstone can be accessed only by climbers, hikers, and explorers, some small sections of these cliffs can be reached by vehicle if you take the Grand Loop Road.

As we highlighted above, this is a must visit highlighted in Yellowstone – and you want to be 100% certain that your camera has a full charge and is ready to go when you arrive!

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