Earth may be one of the most geologically active planets in the solar system, but don’t tell that to these 10 brazenly oblivious balanced stones. Poised between inertial stability and the relentless force of gravity, these rock-steady rocks maintain a precarious balance between soil and sky.
Balanced Rock, Colorado, USA
The huge balanced rock known as, er, Balanced Rock can be found in the Garden of the Gods, a Registered National Natural Landmark located near Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The rock looms over a paved access road that provides an excellent view – hopefully, not the last view an unlucky driver ever sees.
The photo above highlights the layers of sandstone that make up Balanced Rock while accentuating the narrow base that has weathered away over the eons, partially freeing the boulder of harder red sandstone from its imprisoning matrix of softer stone.
Balancing Rock, Digby, Nova Scotia, Canada
Balancing Rock in Digby, Nova Scotia, is a 30-odd foot high spire of columnar basalt that has gradually eroded out from the cliff face over countless years. The town of Digby has lately built an infrastructure of railings and walkways so that access to this striking phenomenon of nature is now much safer – both for tourists and for the rock itself.
According to Wally Hayes, a first-time visitor to Balancing Rock, “I was even more awestruck when I approached for a closer view and could look under the rock through a narrow horizontal crack and see the ocean beyond. The rock column didn’t appear to have much attachment to base rock on which it stood. Not only that, part of the base protruded out from the supporting rock. It looked like a pencil standing upright, half on and half off the edge of a table top. But this was not pencil, rather many tons of solid rock.”
Idol Rock, Brimham Moor, North Yorkshire, UK
A number of oddly shaped and curiously balanced rocks dot a 50-acre expanse of Brimham Moor in North Yorkshire, England. One of the most outstanding – from a balanced rock point of view – is the so-called Idol Rock. Estimated to weight around 200 tons, Idol Rock balances its enormous weight atop a comparatively tiny, pyramidal stone upon which frighteningly high pressures are being expended.
Idol Rock and its companion Brimham Rocks, which include The Sphinx, The Watchdog, The Camel, The Turtle, and The Dancing Bear, can be viewed at the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The UK’s National Trust oversees the area and admittance is free.
El Torcal de Antequera, Andalucia, Spain
El Torcal Nature Reserve, situated in the mountains south of Antequera, Spain, features a plethora of karst limestone rock formations that typically feature tall, tapering spires of rock combined with horizontal weathering patterns. The result of this combination is often expressed in huge “flapjack stacks” that are actually more stable than they appear.
The karst stone towers of El Torcal de Antequera have evolved terraces of limestone over which tourists can ascend like stairs in order to get up close & personal with the rocks. Climbing further is NOT recommended, however – Darwin has provided enough examples in the reserve without your becoming another one!
Kjeragbolten is a 5 square meter (roughly 15 sq ft) rock that his wedged itself in a crevasse between two gigantic rocks on Kjerag mountain, Norway. It’s not your typical, top-heavy balanced rock by any means but that’s not to say that Kjeragbolten is at perfect rest – just ask Aron Ralston, whose arm was trapped by a similarly wedged boulder in Utah’s Blue John Canyon, requiring him to take desperate measures to free himself.
Unlike Ralston’s nemesis in an underground canyon, Kjeragbolten is lodged high up on Kjerag. How high? Those who are brave enough to walk across the boulder (and yes, this is allowed) can easily view the valley floor about 1,000 meters (over 3,000 feet) below. For sheepish hikers especially, the admonition “don’t look down” was never so appropriate.