Hard Boiled Wonderland: New Mexico’s Bisti Egg Garden

The Bisti Egg Garden is an unusual, atypical and accessible rock formation located in the Bisti Wilderness Area near Farmington, New Mexico. Though other famous rock formations have achieved fame for their size and scenic beauty, the Bisti Egg Garden proves that even in geology, good things come in small packages.

Sunny Sides Up

(images via: Gleb Tarassenko and R H Hawkins)

The Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Arches National Park… just some of the big & bold geological wonders famed for their striking size as much as their scenic beauty. Not all of Nature’s rock stars play for the larger-than-life award, however. Take the Bisti Egg Garden, for instance. Tucked away in the little known Bisti Wilderness Area near Farmington in northwest New Mexico, this odd yet awesome example of selective erosion tells a big story in just a few words.

(image via: Adam Schallau)

Tucked away in the southwest’s eerie and enigmatic Four Corners region, the Bisti Egg Garden itself exists under a slight cloud of confusion. For one, it’s been called the Crack Eggs or the Egg Factory. As well, the formation can be found in the Bisti Badlands which themselves are located in the official Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness area.

(images via: Reise Blog & Travel News and Isabel Synnatschke)

The name Bisti (pronounced “Bis-tie”) is derived from the language of the Navajo who used it to describe “a large area of shale hills.” The Navajo’s geology happened to be spot on, as the 38,305 acre Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness predominantly features Kirtland Shale and various sedimentary rocks of the Fruitland Formation. When you add seams of coal into the mix, the result is a bizarre, multicolored landscape of arches, hoodoos and curiously shaped rocks like those found in the Bisti Badlands and the nearby Ah-shi-sle-pah Wilderness Study Area.

(images via: Scott Bacon)

Where there’s eggs, there’s gotta be some bacon…. Scott Bacon, to be exact! Bacon, who visited the Bisti Egg Garden last year and returned to post the stunning photos shown (in part) above, provides the following commentary to complement his imagery: “At first glance, the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in Northwest New Mexico is just a dry, barren and harsh landscape – the very definition of badlands. But a little exploration reveals innumerable treasures for both the mind and eye. It’s a photographer’s paradise, with interesting forms and unique features. With some planning, you can visit the highlights in a couple days. But you could easily spend several weeks, or more, exploring the vast eroded washes.”

Scrambled Ages

(images via: MikeJonesPhoto and Ozyman)

The rock strata we now call the Kirtland and Fruitland Formations date from the Late Cretaceous period when the great inland sea that divided North America into western and eastern halves was slowly drying up. As such, most of the rocks formed in the area were originally mud, clay and other sediments later overlain by windblown sand.

(image via: Gr8sublime)

Thin seams of coal (above) add contrast to the layers of rock exposed today after millions of years of weathering and erosion. Though the “eggs” of the Bisti Egg Garden contain no coal, the combination of different types of sedimentary rock with varying degrees of hardness allows for a uniquely beautiful cameo effect as these boulders slowly erode from the outside in.

(images via: Misty Beier)

What do people think of when they first set eyes on the cracked eggs of the Bisti Egg Garden? One ominous thought might be: “where’s the beast that laid them?” Indeed, the area’s formerly warm and wet prehistory makes it a fossil-hunter’s paradise today. Petrified wood and dinosaur bones are not at all uncommon in the Bisti Badlands though no actual dinosaur eggs have been found. Misty Beier documents some of the area’s fossil wealth in her photobook, Exploring Bisti Badlands: Bisti Wilderness Area in San Juan Basin of New Mexico, some images from which are shown above.

(images via: Ozyman)

Photoartist QQ Li, who goes under the name Ozyman, offers us the intriguing series of images above. Depending upon the ambient lighting at the Bisti Egg Garden, these ancient yet evolving objects take on a variety of attributes from petrified sea turtles to gargantuan cocoons to, well, an egg breakfast left unattended by the local giants.

(image via: Gr8sublime)

The images above show off the differential effects of weathering upon the rocks of the Bisti Egg Garden. Even though all of the rocks are sedimentary and none are especially hard (as rocks go), slight variations in weather resistance loom large over the passage of time – in this case, tens of millions of years.

Get Crackin’

(images via: Scott Fricke Photography and A Little Adventure)

New Mexico has been crowded out of the limelight to some respect by the “heavy hitters” of southwest scenery, Arizona and Utah. Keep in mind, though, that along with Colorado you’ve got the Four Corners and more natural beauty than you can shake a stick at… and just try finding a stick!

(images via: A Little Adventure)

Maybe we spoke too soon: Arizona’s Petrified Forest hasn’t got a monopoly on mineralized wood. Anyone hiking out to see the Bisti Egg Garden will witness some spectacular specimens of fossilized logs tall enough to shed shade on a T Rex. By the way, campers, before you try starting a cookfire be advised that petrified wood doesn’t burn.

(images via: A Little Adventure, Kevin Shieh and Ray Mathis)

Oh, that T Rex we mentioned? It’s not unreasonable to think he or she was keeping one eye on the nest and another out for lunch. Now while the rounded rocks of what some like to call “The Nursery” only look like enormous eggs, one’s imagination can run wild in the desert after a long day on the trail.

(image via: Tom Bullock)

The Garden of Eden it ain’t, but the Bisti Egg Garden has its own set of temptations and rewards for those who take the time to view it up close & personal. No need to worry about any apples, either, but it would be wise to watch out for snakes.


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