Sightseeing

ID #5031

Valley of Desolation, Graaff-Reinet, Karoo, Eastern Cape.

Proclaimed a national monument in 1935. 240-260 million years ago Southern Africa was a vast flat land, crossed by fast-flowing streams. Lush vegetation supported a varied animal population. Dinosaurs and the ancestors of warm-blooded animals were abundant.  Sand and mud slowly accumulated on the plain, eventually reaching great thicknesses. Time and pressure converted the sediments into rock, forming the sandstones and shales that are features of the Karoo.  160-180 million years ago, volcanic eruptions laid waste to much of Africa. Not all of the molten rock was able to find its way to the surface. Quantities were forced into cracks and fissures in the sandstone, as well as into spaces between the layered sediments. The magma solidified into rock known as dolerite (ysterklip), forming horizontal layers and vertical sheets (sills and dykes) that are resistant to erosion. A particularly thick sill may be seen in the hillsides surrounding the Valley of Desolation, which was itself formed by erosion along a narrow, steep-sided cleft on the side of the mountain, probably caused by stresses in the earth’s crust after the dolerite was emplaced. Prominent rock pinnacles were formed by erosion along vertical cracks in the dolerite - cracks that developed as the magma solidified and contracted.

The Valley of Desolation revealed to the visitor is the result of powerful geological processes and the effect of the elements over vast spans of time. Dr Brian E Lock.

The Valley of desolation is 14-km from Graaff-Reinet, which is on the N9 south of Middelburg, which is at the intersection of the N9 with the N10. Turn off the R63 5-km west of Graaff-Reinet. A new road winds up the mountain to a height of 1400-m through the Karoo National Park. From the road, there is a panoramic view of the town below. The highest peak in the Sneeuberg (Compassberg, 2054-m) is prominent. The southern horizon stretches beyond the distant Cockscomb Mountains, almost to the sea. Leaving the car park, a short walk leads to the brink of the valley.  Sheer cliffs rise 120-m from the valley floor, which is strewn with huge rocks and flanked by grotesque and weird columns and precariously balanced piles of rocks. ASValley


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Last update: 2011-01-03 17:13
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.1

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