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The Palisades of Cimarron Canyon Earthcache

A cache by macdonr Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 8/22/2008
1.5 out of 5
1.5 out of 5

Size: Size: other (other)

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Geocache Description:

This earthcache is located at the Palisades Sill roadside parking area on the north side of US Highway 64 within the boundary of Cimarron Canyon State Park. The park is part of the 33,116-acre Colin Neblett Wildlife Area, the largest wildlife area in New Mexico. The Cimarron River flowing eastward past the Palisades is well-known for eight miles of excellent trout fishing. The earthcache is best completed during daylight hours.

Cimarron, New Mexico is famously situated "where the mountains meet the plains." As you drive west from Cimarron into the Cimarron Range of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, most of the hillsides are covered with soil, grasses, and trees. Notable exposed ledges and cliffs formed from light-colored sheets of porphyritic dacite include the Palisades and two formations at Philmont Scout Ranch: Lovers Leap and Cathedral Rock, both of which are on private property.

A sill is a type of igneous rock body that formed from volcanic activity under the earth's surface, intruding between older rock beds. Sills form parallel to surrounding rock and are usually horizontal, although tectonic processes can alter their orientation. The age of the Palisades Sill has been estimated as between 26 million and 34.7 million years.

The porphyritic dacite of the Palisades is composed of large-grained crystals (phenocrysts) of plagioclase feldspar, biotite, hornblende, and quartz in a fine-grained gray rock groundmass. One characteristic of porphyritic dacite is the large number of cooling joints, which (especially evident in the Palisades) caused the rock to crystallize into tall, thin columns. An apron of broken rock at the base of the Palisades hints at the effects of weathering and time.

How Tall are the Palisades?

Palisades up Cimarron Conon 1000 feet high.
Cimarron, N. Mexico.

Despite the claims of this vintage postcard (postmarked in 1919), the Palisades are not 1,000 feet taller than the Cimarron Canyon floor. The elevation of the river at the base of the Palisades is approximately 7,680 feet and the elevation of the cliffs visible from the cache coordinates is approximately 8,000 feet, a difference of just over 300 feet.

However, the terrain close to the Palisades climbs past 8,200 feet and 8,400 feet, and the closest unnamed peak some 1,300 feet NNW of the Palisades is 8,985 feet tall, so the postcard publishers may easily be forgiven for their enthusiasm.

The Scenery

Much of what may be appreciated at the Palisades is visual; the towering cliffs and wooded riverside create a cool, tranquil spot that has served as a unique landmark for passersby. These historic postcards and modern images highlight several principle features of the Palisades area. All are located in the immediate vicinity on the north side of US Highway 64.

The Palisades have been featured on dozens of postcards over the last century. The best-known commercial photographer to capture this classic view on the approach from Eagle Nest was Burton Frasher, Sr. (1888-1955), who traveled the Southwest taking thousands of photographs of main streets, civic buildings, and scenic byways for his Frasher Foto postcard line. This postcard was published in 1935 and the photograph was taken in 2008.

The Devil's Mailbox is within sight of the Palisades parking area northwest along the top of the Palisades Sill. Although this 1938 Frasher's Foto postcard image was taken from a different perspective (from the south side of the highway), the post is clearly recognizable based on its relationship to the surrounding terrain.

This enormous formation seems to be perched precariously on a slope high above the north side of US Highway 64 just southeast of the Palisades. It was identified as "Mother Grundy" in one c1910-1930 postcard image; note the person waving at the base. The formation appeared much the same in 2008.

Mother Grundy is visible from these coordinates:
  N 36° 32.226
  W 105° 09.049

The southeast end of the Palisades features rounded rock columns distinctly different from the main formation. These columns protruding above the treetops have been featured on postcards such as this early view captioned "PALLICE. ADE N.M".

Sample Logging Photo
Showing Palisades in Background

To Log this Earthcache

1) Visit the Palisades and locate the Official Scenic Historic Marker at the coordinates.
2) Have your photograph taken at the site with your GPSr so that some portion of the distinctive Palisades are visible, as shown in the sample logging photo. For solo cachers, a photo of your hand holding your GPSr in front of the Palisades is certainly fine. If your GPSr and phone are in one unit (e.g., an iPhone with Geocaching app), a creative photo of your choosing at the site is also acceptable. Please do not post photographs of the scenic marker.
3) Immediately before logging your find, e-mail the answers to the following three questions using this link. Do not post the answers in your log!

Question 1 - According to the scenic marker, of what rock type is the Palisades Sill composed?

Question 2 - According to the scenic marker, how many years ago were the Southern Rocky Mountains uplifted?

Question 3 - Looking northwest from the scenic marker to the top of the Palisades, you should see The Devil's Mailbox. Using any method at your disposal, estimate the height of the post itself (not the elevation), and e-mail me your guess. If weather or other conditions prevent you from seeing The Devil's Mailbox, please let me know.

4) Upload your photograph(s) when you log your find. Logs without at least one photograph will be deleted, hence the (albeit modest) difficulty rating.


Please follow all posted park rules and regulations during your time in Cimarron Canyon State Park, and please do not disturb any natural resources in this area. Some of the rules are displayed on a covered signpost in the Palisades Picnic Area across US Highway 64 from the Palisades. More information is available at the park office in the Tolby Campground area approximately three miles east of Eagle Nest. Fees are charged for some activities.

Information for this earthcache was gathered from several sources, including the Cimarron Canyon State Park web site and the NMBGMR Geologic Tour: Cimarron Canyon State Park. For a general treatment of Cimarron-area geology I highly recommend: Robinson, G. D., et al. (1964). Philmont Country: The Rocks and Landscape of a Famous New Mexico Ranch. [U.S.] Geological Survey Professional Paper 505. Washington: US Government Printing Office.

Creation of this earthcache was approved by the Cimarron Canyon State Park staff.

Additional Hints (No hints available.)



274 Logged Visits

Found it 264     Write note 9     Publish Listing 1     

View Logbook | View the Image Gallery of 294 images

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Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum

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