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Backpacker Magazine – August 2008

Phenomenon: Glacial Relics

The Ice Age left its mark from Acadia to Yosemite. Here's scenic evidence.

by: Drew Pogge

PAGE 1 2 3 4
Tarn (Public Domain photo)
Tarn (Public Domain photo)
Arete (Chuck Haney)
Arete (Chuck Haney)
Glacial Erratic (George Wuerthner)
Glacial Erratic (George Wuerthner)

If you hike in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, Rocky Mountains, or Sierra Nevada, chances are your favorite trails were once buried under ice sheets thousands of feet thick. And while the last great ice sheets receded from North America 12,000 years ago, evidence of their impact is still present today. "Without glaciation, the Sierra Nevada, Rocky Mountains, and New England ranges would look more like the Great Smoky Mountains," says Dr. William Locke, a glaciologist at Montana State University. That's because the grinding ice sheets in those places eroded the soil that had formed over the preceding eons, exposing the bedrock features we see today from Mt. Washington to Longs Peak. Here's how to spot classic glacial leftovers found in four national parks–and in many other backcountry spots carved by ice.

Tarn
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Andrews Tarn

Tarns are small, glacier-carved mountain lakes set in steep-walled amphitheaters called cirques. Glacial debris deposits (moraines) often create tarns by damming meltwater runoff.

>>Andrews Tarn
Although glaciers first appeared in RMNP up to 500,000 years ago, most of the features recognizable today were carved during the Pinedale glaciation, 35,000-10,000 years ago. The Andrews Glacier, a remnant of the Arapahoe Peak glaciation that lasted until 1850, feeds Andrews Tarn from the cirque above in the Loch Vale area of the park. Reach it via a strenuous 9.2-mile roundtrip from the Glacier Gorge trailhead that gains 2,150 feet of elevation.

Andrews Tarn
UTM 13T 0442224E 4459982N

Rocky Mountain National Park
(970-586-1206; nps.gov/romo)


PAGE 1 2 3 4

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READERS COMMENTS

phillip denney
Feb 15, 2010

What is the source of the Andrews glacier/tarn photo? It looks nearly identical to the Willis Lee photo published in 1916. Could there be no recession in 85 years?
Please respond

pdenney@socolo.net

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