You are here

National Park Mystery Photo 3: It's All In the Patterns


Nature can be very geometric at times. Just look closely at snowflakes or crystals of sand. Indeed, at times nature is a master craftsman, shaping and polishing and, well, being very geometrical. And often humans, who admire the beauty of nature, try to copy it.

Does this photo reflect a slice of nature, or a knock-off of nature? If you can answer that question, you very possibly know the location of this photo shoot.


Math and physics are not alienated from nature they attempt to explain the world. Fibinocci numbers and crystalline structures. I immediately knew it was natural and not artificial but not being a native of the area did not know the answer.

It is fascinating however.

Hi Sue,

I've worked in both places as a park ranger-naturalist. It was immediately obvious to me that the mystery photo is that of Devil's Postpile (located within a very small National Monumnet of the same name located near the southeastern border of Yosemite National Park). The rock is volcanic in origin. It's columnar basalt (caused when basaltic lava flows cool slowly). Columnar basalt is found throughout the volcanic regions of the USA and elsewhere, but it's the glacial polish and glacial striation that gives this mystery photo away.

The rock formation near the East Entrance of Zion National Park is the Checkerboard Mesa. That pattern is formed from weathering in the crossbedded Navajo Sandstone, a geologically famous rock formation of Southern Utah formed from fossilized sand dunes.

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

It is most likley Devil Post Pile but I have seen similar shapes in nature one being the eastern entrance to Zion. same shape differant rock?

To see this perspective one needs to hike up onto the top of the "pile," where glaciers not only have sheared off the ends but polished them quite nicely

There's a bare spot just off the trail where you can see the tops of more columns, still buried underground. It looks like a tiled floor. You have to look carefully to see it, I almost missed it. It is smaller than the spot pictured. It's pretty cool, it means there are more of these things than what is famously exposed by erosion.


My travels through the National Park System:

Kurt, need more mystery nature photo's like this on NPT. Rather see this nature stuff then some fancy pants handgun bull---- on another blog.

It's Devil's postpile in California.

Devil's Postpile it is. I thought for sure this one would be a puzzler for a long while.

To see this perspective one needs to hike up onto the top of the "pile," where glaciers not only have sheared off the ends but polished them quite nicely.

Congrats to DK, though he's probably right that those behind the previous two answers might have been thinking "postpile" when they wrote "tower."

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide

Recent Forum Comments