One of the great places of the Great Plains, "The Window" or "Keyhole" of Monument Rocks offers a peek not only through an eroded butte, but into the power of water -- drops at a time. Once, around a million years ago, a blanket of high plains sediments, washed by streams from the Rockies, covered this area much deeper than any of the Cretaceous chalk which forms the buttes here. Water carried those Ogallala gravels and sands away, much of it helping to form Louisiana. Over many thousands of years afterward, drainage into the Smoky Hill River exhumed the bedrock, and cut around and beneath resistant limestone layers that hold up these buttes. Helped by freeze-thaw cycles and fierce thunderstorms, the flow crumbled and dissolved away the soft chalk that used to occupy the hole. The erosion continues today, slower in the semiarid climate than in the Ice Ages, but still certain and inevitable. Rains the day before our visit leached away an imperceptible many more grains of the chalk into the puddle and soft mud below. Someday, in just a few seconds, the arch will fall, and the butte will suddenly become two pinnacles, each to be eroded away as well.
Our plains and prairies are liberally sprinkled with special places large and small, filled only with grandeur and quietness (save the weather and wildlife), packed with as much beauty as any in the big national parks but not overrun by superficially appreciative carloads of tourists. Such places are metaphorical windows into something far greater than self, and well worth the moments spent. Between snatching morsels from "the smorgasbord of atmospheric violence," I try to find and experience them in person. After all, we all have only a limited lifetime to do so.
6 E Elkader KS (5 Jun 4) looking ENE