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How the H*#@ Did That Happen?

Red Rocks Park

Red Rocks Park

If I had to choose one activity that gives Red Rocks Park in South Burlington, VT its fame, it would be cliff jumping, with cliffs ranging from 5 to 76 feet and deep water to land in. And undoubtedly, speaking from personal experience, that is the main draw to this beautiful natural area on Lake Champlain. But most people don’t take much time to stop and admire the amazing stratified quartize jutting diagonally out of the water that makes up this cliff jumping “funpark”. Furthermore, few people stop and wonder how that amazing rock actually got there. This is Vermont we are talking about after all, and rock formations like Red Rocks is a pretty rare occurrence for most of the state.


To answer the question of how Red Rocks came to be, first we have to look at plate tectonics and an early, developing Earth. Roughly 500 million years ago, Vermont was near the equator and South Burlington was part of a sand beach on the coast of the Lapetus Ocean, a precursor to the Atlantic. The sand on this beach gradually deposited and solidified into the strata of sandstone that would eventually make up Red Rocks. Then, roughly 450 million years ago, there was a collision between the coast of Vermont and a small island chain. This collision caused the Green Mountains that the state is known for to form, as well as the creation of the current quartzite cliffs due to the heat and pressure of the collision with the layers of sandstone. As continents continued to move and shape, mile-deep glaciers formed over what is now Vermont and Lake Champlain. Even when these finally receded though (roughly 13,000 years ago), Red Rocks was still under a few hundred feet of water. Only as more time passed, and the then Champlain Sea receded into the current day Lake Champlain, were the current cliffs revealed and shaped through erosion. And now, we casually jump off these cliffs without any thought about the millions of years of geological  processes that went into their creation.


Geological history: Mazowita, Sophie. “Red Rocks Park” Rep. N.p.: n.p., 2013. Print.

 Video: “75 Foot Cliff Jump. Burlington, VT” –


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