In the heart of California’s iconic Yosemite National Park, a dramatic and colossal natural phenomenon has taken center stage. Named “Super Natural,” this massive crevice stretches an astounding 200 feet in length, and its sudden appearance has left both park officials and avid climbers bewildered. As it continues to crack and shift, concerns for safety have prompted the closure of select park areas.
The astonishing discovery was made by intrepid climbers scaling Yosemite’s challenging terrain near the Royal Arches cliff just last week. Subsequent investigations conducted by park authorities revealed that the crack was not only a recent development but also actively expanding. In response to this potential hazard, precautionary measures have been taken, leading to the temporary closure of certain sections of the park.
One of the most immediate consequences of the new crack is its partial detachment of a substantial rock pillar, situated in close proximity to the popular climbing route known as “Super Slide.” This has raised significant concerns regarding the potential for rockfalls, which can pose life-threatening risks to park visitors.
To mitigate these dangers, the National Park Service has decided to seal off access to affected trails, a restriction that was put into effect on August 30 and will remain in place until a thorough assessment is completed and any potential hazards are addressed.
Jesse McGahey, a Supervisory Park Ranger at Yosemite National Park, provided vivid details of the unsettling developments. He stated, “The following week, a climbing ranger and a geologist observed it firsthand, and they could hear it cracking like a frozen lake that wasn’t consolidated. And there were pieces of rock rattling down the crack without touching it. The park geologist said they’d never seen anything like this. He’s never been able to observe that in his 15 years in Yosemite.”
The unsettling fact is that the crack has shown movement, shifting approximately one inch within the span of just seven days. However, predicting its future behavior remains a formidable challenge. The ominous rock pillar that has captured the attention of park officials could potentially collapse imminently, or it might remain stable for years. Until a clearer understanding of the threat is gained, sections of the park will remain off-limits to visitors.
Rockfalls are not uncommon in Yosemite Valley, where the imposing cliffs were sculpted by ancient glaciers. The dynamic geological processes at play contribute to the park’s ever-changing landscape, enhancing its natural beauty. However, witnessing rockfalls up close is an experience most would prefer to avoid.
The National Park Service sheds light on the forces that trigger such events, explaining, “Triggering mechanisms like water, ice, earthquakes, and vegetation growth are among the final forces that cause unstable rocks to fall. If water enters fractures in the bedrock, it can build up pressure behind unstable rocks. Water also may seep into cracks in the rock and freeze, causing those cracks to grow. This process is called ‘frost wedging’ or ‘freeze-thaw’ and can incrementally lever loose rocks away from cliff faces.”
Frost wedging, the same natural phenomenon responsible for the remarkable landscape of Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, where a multitude of towering hoodoos can be found, serves as a reminder of the ongoing geological transformations that shape our world. Yosemite’s “Super Natural” crack, while awe-inspiring in its scale, serves as a stark reminder of the ever-evolving nature of our planet’s landscapes and the importance of safety precautions in these dynamic environments.