The Yellowstone Super Volcano erupted about 600,000 years ago and when the massive explosion occurred, most of the volcanic ash fell in what is now the west side of this National Park. Gigantic mountains of volcanic tuff can be seen all along the Highway 89 touring loop through this area and sections of the original caldera rim can be viewed as well. Roaring Mountain is the most popular volcanic tuff feature in this section, because the steaming fumaroles offer a unique sight and sound experience. Another good place to experience the volcanic blast area is Tuff Cliff, which is yet another easy to access Yellowstone roadside attraction.
Because volcanic tuff is as soft as plaster or mortar cement, it is subject to erosive forces. Tuff Cliff is basically a towering mountain of hardened volcanic ash that has an exposed face due to eons of erosive forces. The Yellowstone Super Volcano explosion was so powerful, that large boulders were tossed sky high. The friction was so great that the boulders turned red hot and when they landed in the massive pile of ash the boulders actually flattened into oblong shapes. The full story can be viewed on the towering walls of Tuff Cliff, where the flattened boulders and empty pockets where boulders used to be cemented can be seen with the naked eyes.
As can be imagined, any living creature in this region would have quickly been suffocated by the thick airborne ash almost as quickly as they would have been baked alive. In modern times Mother Nature has definitely returned and the Tuff Cliff area is full of life. Birds and bats roost in the cliff pockets, while bears and deer roam through the deep pine woods. The Madison River is located right across the road and bison can often be seen in the grassy meadows. Relatively few people tour the Tuff Cliff area because there are few geysers to be seen, so this is a good little picnic spot to keep in mind when an urge to escape from the big crowd occurs. Tuff Cliff is well worth checking out, so be sure to chalk this Yellowstone destination up when planning a grand tour!
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