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Obsidian Cliff

Grand Loop Rd, Wyoming 82190 USA

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“naturally formed vertical lava columns”

Obsidian Cliff was an important source of lithic materials for prehistoric peoples in Yellowstone National Park near Gardiner, Montana. The cliff was named by Philetus Norris, the second park superintendent in 1878. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1996. The cliff was formed from thick rhyolite lava flow that occurred about 180,000 years ago. The vertical columns are cooling fractures that formed as the thick lava flow cooled and crystallized. The Cliffs at an elevation of nearly 7,400 ft. above sea level and go on for about half a mile. The cliffs also extend between 150 and 200 feet about Obsidian Creek. The flow consists of obsidian, a dark volcanic glass. The obsidian is most abundant at the base of the cliff and slowly tapers off to larger concentrations of pumice at the top. Obsidian from this site was first quarried here about 12,000 years ago. Early natives of North America placed a high value on the obsidian that came from this cliff as well as other similar obsidian deposits in the area because numerous tools could be fashioned from obsidian - most popularly knives, spear/arrow tips, and other sharp edged objects. In fact, obsidian was so sought after in early America (before the time of Columbus) that it was traded as far away as Mexico and Guatemala, and Ohio and Canada.

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  • 18 Reviews
  • 43 Helpful
July 07, 2015
Rated 2.0

Nothing really left to see here, as so many people have taken samples that there is hardly any obsidian left, and the trails close to it have been closed.

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Obsidian Cliff

Grand Loop Rd
82190 USA

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