How Do These Holes Happen?


Ernst Tinaja in Big Bend National Park, Texas.

I hadn’t expected anything like this when we hiked to one of the highlights recommended in Big Bend National Park.  Tinaja is Spanish for pond, so I’d assumed oasis which would naturally be a big draw in arid Big Bend.  The formations were even cooler though, especially when a fox trotted into the canyon and left a deposit in my path.  (Apparently he was delivering a message: get outta my yard!)

All tinaja photos taken by Steve Williams. Thanks Honey!

On seeing the tinajas, the holes’ symmetry made me wonder if people had somehow bored them.  But who would have taken so much trouble, and why?

A month later my answer came by way of a state park ranger explaining a similar hole near Lake Pleasant, Arizona.  Powerful flash floods can sweep boulders along like stampeding buffalo.  In some areas, stubborn barriers in the flood’s path cause conflicting currents and create whirlpools strong enough to twirl boulders–right through rock.  The process, of course, takes eons.  How often does a flash flood that powerful even occur?

Yet, I’m guessing that the holes are youngsters alongside this rock formation.

Rock formation in canyon wall.


About breathtakebyways

Ann Williams’ travel articles have appeared in publications all over the country including The Washington Post, Roads to Adventure, and Jack and Jill. Between researching and writing books, she specializes in creative lectures.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *