Featured – Black Mesa

No Gravatar

by S.T. Paxton 

The plateau is capped by a “black” basalt that was, at one period in time, lava.  The lava flowed from Colorado through New Mexico and into Oklahoma about 30 million years ago.  The movement of the lava was similar to the way lava flows at the surface in Hawaii today.  A number of dormant volcanoes are located along the flow path to the west and northwest of Black Mesa.  The flat topped hills in the Black Mesa area are capped by the same series of lava flows.  Basalt erodes slowly compared to the sandstone and shale.  As a result, the basalt protects the soft layers beneath from erosion (at least for the time being).  The Cimarron River, originating in New Mexico, flows to the east along the southern boundary of Black Mesa.

Black Mesa is a designated nature preserve.  Oklahoma’s Black Mesa State Park is located 15 miles to the south of the Black Mesa Nature Preserve.  The parking lot to the preserve is located off a county road north of Oklahoma Route 325.  The hike is 8.4 miles roundtrip.  At a minimum, two hours up, two hours on top of the mesa, and two hours return sums to a total of about 6 hours required to take in the sights of Black Mesa by foot.  The preserve is located so far from Oklahoma population centers that an overnight stay in the greater Black Mesa area is required to navigate the area safely.

Despite the occurrence of drought conditions the past few years, the western panhandle of Oklahoma was remarkably green.  The wildflowers, yucca, and cactus were in full bloom.  Deer, antelope, and lizards were abundant.  Birds of all types were active.  The pre-sunrise bird chatter at our campsite in Black Mesa State Park was unusually vibrant. Following are some images from the hike up Black Mesa – 

 

Figure 2 – Panorama showing approach to Black Mesa by foot. The continuation of the trail is visible on the hillside in the distance.

 

Print size for the above color saturated image, Approach to Black Mesa, is 23 inches x 8 inches at a resolution of 300 pixels per inch.

 

Figure 3 – View of the valley floor from the established trail to the top of the Black Mesa plateau. The valley is a result of erosion of sandstone and shale beneath the basalt cap rock (basalt is not visible in the field of view).

 

Figure 4 – Approaching the summit of the Black Mesa plateau (path on left side of image).

 

Print size for the above color saturated image, Entering Black Mesa Plateau, is 19 inches x 11 inches at a resolution of 300 pixels per inch. 

 

Figure 5 – Horned toad (really a lizard) crossing the trail, Black Mesa Nature Preserve.

 

Figure 6 – Horned toad (really a lizard) crossing the trail, Black Mesa Nature Preserve.

   

Figure 7 – Thistle in bloom, Black Mesa Nature Preserve.

 

Figure 8 – Thistle in bloom, Black Mesa Nature Preserve.

 

Figure 9 – Marker embedded in base of platform that supports the obelisk.

 

Figure 10 – Bench adjacent to obelisk marking high point in the State of Oklahoma.

 

Figure 11 – A colorful blanket of vegetation springing from the basalt.

  

Figure 12 – Some vegetation along the path to the obelisk (yucca, prickly pear, cholla, and prairie grasses are most common).

 

Figure 13 – Black Mesa basalt bedrock exhibiting polygonal jointing and a small talus slope developed from a cascade of boulders (lower left side of image).

 

Figure 14 – Edge of Black Mesa (basalt-capped escarpment) bathed in the late-afternoon sunlight.

 

Print size for the above color saturated image, View to the NE on Black Mesa I, is 28 1/4 inches x 8 inches at a resolution of 300 pixels per inch.  

 

Figure 15 – Edge of Black Mesa (basalt-capped escarpment) in late-afternoon sunlight.

 

Print size for the above color desaturated image, View to the NE on Black Mesa II, is 11 inches x 8 inches at a resolution of 300 pixels per inch. 

 

Figure 16 – Departure from the summit of Black Mesa in the late afternoon.

 

Print size for the above color saturated image, Departing Black Mesa Plateau, is 17 inches x 8 inches at a resolution of 300 pixels per inch. 

 

Figure 17 – Departure from Black Mesa (basalt-capped escarpment) in late-afternoon sunlight.

 

Figure 18 – Silhouette of mesa along foot path adjacent to Black Mesas Nature Preserve.

 Accomodations:

Black Mesa Bed and Breakfast

Hitching Post Bed and Breakfast and Ranch Recreation

Black Mesa State Park  

 

Figure 19 – Mary Lou and Stan Paxton at the half way point of their Black Mesa Nature Preserve hike near Kenton, Oklahoma.

 

 

March 25, 2012

A few thunderstorms rolled through the State of Oklahoma last week.  On Thursday I traveled over the river bridge at Coyle just as the sun was dropping below dark storm clouds located slightly above the horizon (between 7:10-7:35 PM).  This series of photographs include a few in which the sun took on a brilliant starburst appearance for about 2-3 minutes of the photo shoot.  I have included a comparison photograph at the end of this posting to show the view without the sunbeams.  A set of images with the sunbeams (below) are posted to Zazzle if you are interested in having an archival-quality print (standard landscape-size print or as a larger panoramic print).

 

Cimarron River Sunset, March 22, 2012 – Color saturated, 3264 x 2448 pixels (print size 10.88″ x 8.16″ at 300 pixels per inch resolution).

 

Cimarron River Sunset, March 22, 2012 – Panorama, color saturated, 6882 x 2435 pixels (print size 22.94″ x 8.12″ at 300 pixels per inch resolution).

 

Cimarron River Sunset, March 22, 2012 – Color desaturated, 3264 x 2448 pixels (print size 10.88″ x 8.16″ at 300 pixels per inch resolution).

 

Cimarron River Sunset, March 22, 2012 – Panorama, color saturated.

  

March 11, 2012

Chickasaw National Recreation Area near Sulphur, Oklahoma – Though the Oklahoma drought has taken a toll on portions of the park, Buffalo Spring, located on the east side of the park, has just recently started to flow again.  The lowered flow and less-than-ideal water circulation in Buffalo Spring this past year promoted the uncharacteristic growth of green algae on the surface of the spring.  A visit to Buffalo Spring on February 20, 2012 yielded the photographs below.  Close inspection of the surface of the water in these images also reveals the presence of interference patterns among a series of concentric ripple fronts.  These patterns are caused by gas bubbles leaking to the surface from the bed of the spring.  Past chemical analyses reveal the gas bubbles in the spring contain nitrogen  (CNRA Resource Evaluation) with a small amount of carbon dioxide and a trace of argon (Arbuckle-Simpson Hydrology Study Newsletter, 2006, p. 2 ).  Note the aggregates of bubbles or “balloons” formed within the patches of green algae.  The emerald-green balloons are most apparent in the lower right corner of the third photograph (a close-up).  These algae balloons may be filled with nitrogen gas?!

Reflections in Buffalo Spring (panorama, color saturated), Chickasaw National Recreation Area (February 20, 2012)

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *