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18-Million-year-old rock formation in Oregon destroyed by vandals

Boban Docevski

All around the world, we see marvelous examples of rocks and boulders that defy gravity and look like they were carved and shaped by a human hand. In reality, it takes millions of years for these wonders to be formed by the processes of weathering and erosion. These natural monuments, most of them protected by law, stand as a reminder of the turbulent history of the creation of our planet.

Among the many types of rock formations, probably the most spectacular are the ones called “Hoodoos.” They usually appear in areas where a thick layer of a relatively soft rock, such as poorly cemented sandstone (consolidated volcanic ash), is covered by a thin layer of hard rock, such as well-cemented sandstone, limestone or basalt.

Because the softer rock erodes easier, the upper, thin layer of hard rock remains bigger and wider. This difference in erosion gives these formations their distinctive look. The top is usually larger than the soft rock pedestal upon which it stands. Hoodoos have variable thickness and shape.

Until recently, one such remarkable Hoodoo stood up in the Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area in Pacific City, Oregon. Apparently, something that was shaped for 18 million years can be destroyed in just a few seconds.

Around five p.m. on Aug. 29, 2016, a group of eight vandals was caught knocking down the sandstone rock formation known as the Duckbill. All they had to say when the rock finally fell was “Got ’em!”

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The Duckbill rock formation as it was seen in 2013. Photo credit Alexrk2 CC BY 3.0

David Kalas, who was in the vicinity with his friend, recorded the incident on his phone. In an interview with  KATU News, Kallas said he approached the vandals and when he asked them why did they destroy the rock, he received a pretty awkward answer:

“I asked them, you know, why they knocked the rock down, and the reply I got was: their buddy broke their leg earlier because of that rock,” Kalas said. “They basically told me themselves that it was a safety hazard, and that they did the world or Oregon a favor.”

The Duckbill rock formation wasn’t just an important geological monument that predates human existence; it was also magnificent. As one of the main attractions of the Cape Kiwanda park, it attracted thousands of people every month.

The larger boulder that stands on the fragile and narrow pedestal was a popular spot for selfies and even wedding photography! Despite all the warnings from the park service, people kept carelessly going close to the formation. The area was fenced and hardly reachable, but this didn’t stop the vandals and their friend who allegedly broke a leg. Now the rock is gone, and nobody can enjoy it anymore.

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Hoodoos in Goblin Valley state park. A rock formation here was also destroyed in 2013. Photo credit Enrico Stirl CC BY-SA 3.0

This is not the first case where people destroy rock formations. A similar incident happened in a Utah’s Goblin Valley state park in 2013, when former Boy Scout leaders destroyed a 20 million-year-old rock. Those guys received a $2,000 fine and probation.

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department stated that the police is searching for the culprits. The only thing the park service can do at the moment is threatening the group with a $400 fine; wich seems like a small amount in comparison with the priceless work of Nature.