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The Arikaree Breaks are one of the best kept secrets in Kansas, an area of rugged beauty and unique scenery. The name Arikaree comes from the Arikaree River, which runs from Colorado through approximately three miles of Kansas right at its northwest corner before going into Nebraska, where it joins the South Fork of the Republican River.
The hills and canyons that make up the Arikaree Breaks consist of a type of windblown silt called loess. The word “loess” is of German origin and means “loose”.
Loess can be classified as glacial or non-glacial. Glacial loess was deposited during the ice ages of the past million years. This finely ground silt was formed as ancient glaciers advanced over land, pulverizing rocks in the process. The loess was then deposited on floodplains by streams that were formed as the glaciers melted somewhat during warmer months. These streams were dry in the colder months and exposed to the wind. Geologists believe that temperature differences between the north, where the land was covered in snow, and the bare ground to the south might have created large differences in atmospheric pressure. These differences are thought to have produced strong winds capable of moving large amounts of silt over large distances. Non-glacial loess originates from windblown deserts, dry lakes, dune fields, and volcanic ash and is also deposited its origin by the action of the wind.
Loess is easily eroded and has a tendency to form almost vertical cliffs. These cliffs are noticeable throughout the Arikaree Breaks and in other parts of northwestern Kansas.
The climate here is very dry -- average annual precipitation is less than 20 inches per year. The breaks are found more than 3,000 feet above sea level and are located in one of the coldest areas of Kansas. The deep ravines and gullies present themselves suddenly and by surprise, and they are a stark contrast to the flat plains northwest Kansas is otherwise known for.
Visitors are asked to please respect the land owners’ generosity by remaining on public roads at all times. Be especially watchful during the warmer months for prairie rattlesnakes which are known to inhabit this area.
Before logging this EarthCache, please message me via Geocaching Messenger with the answers to the following questions. Please do not put your answers in your log, even if encrypted.
1. Looking West estimate the depth and width of the largest break.
2. Turn around and look at the east side of the road. In very general terms, what do you see?
3. Based on what you just read, do you think the loess found in the Arikaree Breaks is glacial or non-glacial? What led you to that conclusion?
4. The Arikaree Breaks are thought to be more than 10,000 years old. Since loess is easily eroded, why do you think this area has withstood the test of time?
(No hints available.)