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Spearfish Canyon
Spearfish Canyon
Scientists tell us that Spearfish Canyon was formed 30 to 60 million years ago. Originally, a great sea covered this area. When the waters started to subside, the canyon was carved out by water eroding away the softer rock. The land was also pushed up from underneath by volcanic action. After many years, the water carved out the channel we have come to call "Spearfish Canyon".

Spearfish Canyon is full of Ponderosa and Spruce Pine trees, giving it a "full of life" feeling no matter what time of year you visit. The pine trees are adept at finding any little crevice or crack and putting down roots. Some of them look as if they are growing right out of the rocks themselves! The banks of Spearfish Creek support Aspen, Birch and Oak trees (among others), which are primarily responsible for the golden yellow Fall colors the Spearfish Canyon is so famous for. In the Fall time, some of the mountains get bands and rifts of yellow just like the miners find gold in the rich gold veins of the Black Hills rocks.
Spearfish Canyon

Spearfish Canyon
Spearfish Canyon
Spearfish Canyon
The growing trees as well as the freezing and thawing cycles of nature are still at work in the canyon. It is not uncommon to have a small boulder fall... sometimes we even get huge boulders falling and leaving permanent marks as they tumble down the steep walls of the canyon. The last really large one was in the mid 1990's Spearfish Canyon

Spearfish Canyon The PahaSapa Limestone, found at the top layer of Spearfish Canyon gets its name from the Sioux Indian Nation. "Paha" meaning, "Hills", and "Sapa" meaning, "Black". If you look at the Black Hills from a distance, they appear quite dark. This is because of the ponderosa pine trees that make up almost 80% of the tree coverage here in the Hills. When you look closely at the needles of the Ponderosa Pine, you can see that they are flat. The topside of the needles are designed for absorbing light... thus the Hills look dark from a distance.

The origins of the name "Spearfish" can be debated. Many people believe the Indians speared fish from Spearfish River (now called Spearfish Creek), while others think that white men simply coined the name because it looked like it would be a good area to spear fish from. The Sioux Indians in the area were very resourceful and if there were fish to be speared, they probably did. Spearfish Creek use to be called Spearfish River because of the hugh volume of water it had back then.

The first commercial transportation through the Canyon was by train in 1893. It was a difficult area to make a road in, and some early attempts failed, so most travelers accessed the canyon by horseback or train. When a flood damaged the rail line in 1933, it was abandoned and the main vehicle road was finally made. Much of the road was made directly on the old rail line bed. Later, Highway 14A was constructed allowing more people access to this breathtaking, scenic wonder. As you travel though, you'll notice how high some of the walls go, and how narrow the canyon actually is.

As you make your way through the canyon, you can see 3 main layers of rock. The highest peaks, typically the thickest part, which can be 300 to 600 feet thick, are known as the PahaSapa Limestone. It's typically beige or tan with weathered gray areas and it's in this section of rock where people find the most fossils.
The next level down is the Englewood Limestone, which can range from 30 to 60 feet thick. The Englewood Limestone is quite often mauve, pink or even red. The bottom layer is known as Deadwood Sandstone and is normally a brown color and may appear to have different levels or layers. These Deadwood Sandstone layers can be up to 400 feet thick! Spearfish Canyon

Spearfish Canyon The Bridal Veil Falls area is an example of igneous rock. This type of rock was formed when molten rock pushed through the sedimentary rock above it. You won't see layers in this type of rock, but if you look, some of the other layered rock formations will be seen resting upon these giant gray rock formations.

The wildlife in the canyon is worth the trip itself. Whitetail and Mule Deer can be seen anywhere along the canyon. If you don't see a chipmunk or two, then you must have your eyes closed! If you watch, you can also see Raccoons, Porcupine, Squirrels, Mountain Goats and every once in a great while someone will report a Bobcat. Many of the different types of birds that frequent the Black Hills can also be seen in the Canyon. Eagles have been known to swoop down and pluck out fat trout. Brook, Rainbow, Brown and Cutthroat trout can all be found in Spearfish Canyon Creek. Trout are not native to the Black Hills. The trout were actually brought to the Hills from Colorado by the US Bureau of Fisheries at the very end of the 1800's. The Historic DC Booth Fish Hatchery, located in Spearfish, and is one of the great free attractions in the Northern Black Hills.

No matter what time of year you get here, Spearfish Canyon has something to offer. Of course the Fall time has the great fall colors when the Aspen and Birch trees turn to golden yellow, but the Canyon is equally awe inspiring in the Winter when heavy wet snow piles up on the tree branches and Canyon tops. It can get so quiet and serene that you actually can hear a pin drop. Personal reflection in the surrounds and ambience of these ancient mountains, together with the absolute silence can be an experience almost "out of this world". Spearfish Canyon

In the springtime, the canyon renews it's magic every year when something so ancient becomes fresh and alive all over again. The canyon is bright and teeming with life. The springtime scenes are fresh and crisp, and are a favorite time for hikers, fishers and nature lovers of all ages.

Spearfish Canyon Summer time brings the sightseers, picnickers and family outings. Bikers, both the motorized and peddled versions find one of the best rides anywhere in the world. If you watch, you can sometimes see the American Bald Eagle as well as other birds of prey. Many of the 1300 plant species from the Black Hills region can be found right here in the canyon. Every once in awhile you can see the mountain goats too... so when you get here, keep your eyes open! Spearfish Canyon Foundation

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