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MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Yellowstone National Park in Park County, Wyoming — The American West (Mountains)
 

Obsidian Cliff

Volcanic Glass

 
 
Obsidian Cliff Marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard Denney, May 10, 2015
1. Obsidian Cliff Marker
Inscription. Yellowstone Plateau glowed red from volcanic activity, with molten rock welling up and spreading from numerous fissures. Obsidian Cliff, a 180,000-year-old lava flow, is part of the evidence. Cooling and shrinking, the lava solidified into large columns visible at the base of the cliff.

Obsidian is a rock of high silica content with few visible crystals. By contrast, Golden Gate, 10 miles north, cuts through a lighter-colored flow of welded ash. The two formations are chemically identical but look different because they cooled under different conditions. Yellowstone's cliffs and canyons are charged with invisible movement: a sense of fiery, dynamic origin and gradual but unmistakable cracking and crumbling over time.
 
Location. 44° 49.44′ N, 110° 43.752′ W. Marker is in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, in Park County. Marker is on Grand Loop Road (U.S. 89), on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is located about 11 miles south of Mammoth Hot Springs. Marker is in this post office area: Yellowstone National Park WY 82190, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 7 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Roaring Mountain (approx. 3 miles away); Fumaroles (approx. 3 miles away); Sheepeater Cliff
Obsidian Cliff Marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard Denney, May 10, 2015
2. Obsidian Cliff Marker
Marker is housed in a shelter built in 1931, one of the first wayside exhibit shelters in the National Park system.
(approx. 4.7 miles away); Living Thermometer (approx. 6.7 miles away); Porcelain Springs (approx. 6.8 miles away); Norris Geyser Basin (approx. 6.8 miles away); a different marker also named Fumaroles (approx. 6.8 miles away); Solfatara (approx. 6.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Yellowstone National Park.
 
Also see . . .
1. Obsidian Cliff, Prehistoric Lithic Quarry - Wikipedia Article. Obsidian Cliff was an important source of obsidian, prized by Native Americans for making knives, spear points, other lithic tools. 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. Obsidian from Obsidian Cliff was traded and has been found in prehistoric sites as far away as Canada and Ohio. (Submitted on May 23, 2015, by Richard Denney of Austin, Texas.) 

2. National Historic Landmark Nomination Form. Obsidian Cliff is a National Historic Landmark. The form reads in part: "Obsidian Cliff (48YE433) is located in northwestern Yellowstone National Park within the Middle
Obsidian Cliff Marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard Denney, May 10, 2015
3. Obsidian Cliff Marker
Open-air Museum. This shelter is a Yellowstone landmark. Built in 1931, the structure is one of the first wayside exhibit shelters in the National Park System, and is entered on the National Register of Historic Places. The native logs and stone blend with the environment and create a place to interpret the landscape, not in a museum, but outdoors in plan sight of the natural phenomenon.
Rocky Mountains of northwestern Wyoming ... For at least 11,000 years, it has been used as a raw material source for high quality obsidian tools and archeological sites in Yellowstone National Park contain a preponderance of this material. " (Submitted on May 23, 2015, by Richard Denney of Austin, Texas.) 
 
Categories. Native AmericansNotable Places
 
Valley Floor image. Click for full size.
By Richard Denney
4. Valley Floor
View of obsidian boulders, and valley floor at the base of Obsidian Cliff, looking south. On maps this is known as Beaver Lake. Old photos from 1800s shows what the area looked like with water.
Obsidian Cliff image. Click for full size.
By Richard Denney
5. Obsidian Cliff
Obsidian Boulder image. Click for full size.
By Richard Denney, May 10, 2015
6. Obsidian Boulder
Photo of an obsidian boulder near the cliff. Credit card provides context for size.
Collection of Obsidian is Unlawful image. Click for full size.
By Richard Denney, May 10, 2015
7. Collection of Obsidian is Unlawful
A sign reminds visitors that collecting obsidian from this archeological site is unlawful. Access to the cliff itself has been closed because of looting of obsidian.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 18, 2018. This page originally submitted on May 23, 2015, by Richard Denney of Austin, Texas. This page has been viewed 235 times since then and 24 times this year. Last updated on September 16, 2018, by Craig Baker of Sylmar, California. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on May 23, 2015, by Richard Denney of Austin, Texas. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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