Wyoming Nature April 29, 2018
Few People Know The Unusual Story Behind Heart Mountain In Wyoming Mountain And It’s Fascinating
Wyoming is a bit of a bizarre state, and only those who live here really know what that means. After all, our history was, and still is, a little bit wild. How many other places in the country can brag that the
bullet holes above your barstool are from Buffalo Bill or Frank Canton? Even beyond our wild west history, the geologic history of Wyoming is unlike any place on earth. I’m sure you’ve heard someone say they would “move mountains” for someone, but only in Wyoming has that phrase really come to life.
Way out near Cody, Wyoming, there's a strange mountain that seems quite out of place.
Rather than being a part of the Absaroka Range, Heart Mountain lies 62 miles to the east, in the Big Horn Basin.
Scientists have been able to confirm that Heart Mountain was once part of the range when it formed 50 million years ago - so what happened?
Perhaps the other mountains just took Heart for granite, and the rock decided it would be better off alone?
Puns aside (no matter how much they rock), the story of Heart Mountain is almost unbelievable. Turns out, it moved those 62 miles away thanks to a volcanic landslide that took place over just about half an hour. Yes, that means the entire mountain was moving across the basin at 100 miles per hour.
Wait - a mountain moved 62 miles in half an hour? How is that possible?
For years, scientists have wondered what really happened with Heart Mountain. The rocks found at the summit are about 500 million years old, but the rocks below only date about 50 million years old. How, then, did the older rocks come to rest above the relatively brand new basin?
To answer that question,geophysicist Einat Aharonov at the Weizmann Institute of Science and Mark Anders, a geologist from Columbia University, set to work creating a computer model to interpret the data that was available. In simple terms, Heart Mountain was filled with unusual dikes that filled with water, leaving no room for the lava and regular volcanic eruptions that were forming the Absaroka Range. When the water pressure and lava pressure built up, the result was a catastrophic explosion and landslide that sent a mountain literally flying across the land.
You can see Heart Mountain all by itself in this satellite image from NASA.
Can you imagine it sliding all that way in just half an hour? If you're interested in learning a little more about the science behind the explosion that moved a mountain, you can read about it
Those who visit today will find that there is one very dark twist to the Heart Mountain story.
During World War II, the base of the mountain was used as an internment camp for Japanese Americans. The camp was a place where the American government kept those of Japanese heritage in terrible conditions, due to unfounded fears and mass public hysteria. Today, the site has been preserved as an interpretive center and a museum to demonstrate just how dangerous it can be to let propaganda, prejudice and fear take over the public view. You can visit the site to learn more about this dark period in American history -
read more about planning a trip here
. Visiting one of these camps is an experience that every American should have, because it is truly powerful to see.
Now, the movement of Heart Mountain may be a strange occurrence, but it’s not the weirdest thing to happen here! Read up on
The 10 Weirdest And Strangest Things That Have Ever Happened In Wyoming for a glimpse into the odd history of the Equality State. Address: Heart Mountain, Wyoming, USA