Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mima Mounds in Merced County

We were on the road today with some students, exploring the southern end of the California Mother Lode, the site of the 1848 Gold Rush. One of the first things we saw as we approached the Sierra Nevada Foothills were the enigmatic features called mima mounds.
I talked about mima mounds a few months ago, with pictures from Stanislaus county, Yokohl Valley, Tehachapi, and even their most famous site, the Mima Mounds south of Seattle and Tacoma. But someone asked at the time if I had pictures of the ones just south of where I live, which I have driven past many dozens of times, and I realized I had never photographed them. They lie south and west of Hornitos Road on the prairie lands east of the valley town of Merced. I almost missed them again today as we started on our field studies class, but I grabbed the camera just in time to snap a few shots as we sped by.

The mounds have been attributed to Native American burials, earthquake waves and other complicated causes, but the latest research suggest that thousands of generations of gophers produced them. Maybe not the most fun of explanations, but the most satisfying as far as I am concerned.

There were quite a few sights on the road today, more on them in other posts!


Anonymous said...

This is amazing – a collection of best pictures ever of Earth more 20 best pictures ever of Earth

Blake H. Lindsey said...

I have to admit I was seriously disappointed when I learned these were glorified gopher holes. I used to live in Merced and drove by these many, many times while commuting to Sonora, always wondering about them but assuming they had something to do with ancient lake or riverine currents, or possibly erosion. I suppose their irregular nature should have been a clue.
Upon reflection, this is an amusing comment about the nature of scientific advancement; fascinating theories put forth to explain a phenomenon, only to have a rather mundane (and, given the number of ground squirrels and gophers in the area, rather obvious) explanation fit the bill.
Science is kind of funny sometimes.