Amazing Lumby and Keremeos hiking destinations formed in the wake of volcanic eruptions | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Amazing Lumby and Keremeos hiking destinations formed in the wake of volcanic eruptions

The Aberdeen columns near Lumby.
Image Credit: Jeremie Dyck
October 04, 2020 - 8:00 AM

The Okanagan has plenty of amazing views and but two popular sites in the South and North Okanagan stand out in a camera lens as unique against the typical landscape.

The Keremeos columns and Aberdeen columns may be geologic oddities in the Okanagan, though similar structures are found around the world. 

They are columnar basalt formations, often with cascading colours that make for amazing photos and hiking or climbing destinations. 

University of British Columbia Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science geologist and senior instructor Brett Gilley calls them “pretty cool.”

 

“You can find them all over, there are some out near Whistler, and a huge number of them in eastern Washington,” Gilley says.

 

The formations are the result of volcanic activity and can be made of basalt or andesite, although the ones in British Columbia are largely basalt. They’re shaped by the physics involved in the cooling of the rock after a lava flow.

“When the flow cools, the outside cools first, and the inside stays hot, kind of like a candy centre,” Gilley says.

The rock takes some time to cool from the outside in.

Eventually the outside solidifies on the top and bottom, causing the rock to contract.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Getting spanked by splitters at the Aberdeen Columns.

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“As it contracts, the whole outer surface comes under tension, like a sheet that is being pulled in all directions at once,” Gilley explains. “To get rid of that tension, it has to break, so the fractures that form are interesting, because the rock tries to break with the shortest fracture possible. It turns out, the pattern that breaks with the least area is a honeycomb, or polygon pattern. The shape of these columns is essentially the result of evenly distributing the stress of cooling during the rock’s formation.”

Locally, the Aberdeen columns, located about a half hour east of Vernon near Lumby, are popular with rock climbers, while a view of Keremeos columns, off Highway 3 A east of Keremeos, are the goal at the end of a popular hiking trail in Keremeos Columns Provincial Park.

The Devil's Woodpile is another example of the formation that is a destination frequented by hikers in Cathedral Park, west of Keremeos.

“There are pretty cool formations, and can attract a lot of attention. They’re often a destination on hiking trails,” Gilley says. 

The Devil's Woodpile is a columnar basalt formation in Cathedral Park in the Similkameen Valley.
The Devil's Woodpile is a columnar basalt formation in Cathedral Park in the Similkameen Valley.

Internationally, the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland and Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, (made famous in the movie "Close Encounters of Third Kind") are examples of columnar basalt formations.


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