Yehliu Geopark Holds Natural Wonders in a Fantasy Landscape
There are many astounding geological formations in the world that are almost works of art. Some of the most remarkable natural formations in all of the Asia-Pacific region are to be found in Yehliu Geological Park, Taiwan, which have been created by geological processes over many millennia. The landscape is almost unearthly and this park is now increasingly popular with locals as well as foreigners.
Yehliu Geological Park and Its Geology
The Yehliu Peninsula is narrow, juts out into the Pacific, and has been likened by locals to a turtle lying in the sea. The area is mostly made up of sedimentary rock eroded for millennia by the water and wind which has resulted in Yehliu having a variety of outstanding geological sculptures.
Yehliu Geopark (aaron90311/ Adobe Stock)
Many of the soft sedimentary rocks have developed weathering rings - exquisite brown-ring patterns on exposed stones that resemble the work of a craftsperson and many outcrops have been weathered in such a way that they resemble honeycombs while the so-called ‘ginger boulders’ have a reddish hue due to weathering. Strange potholes and unusual rock formations grace the site and the twin caves known as the ‘lover’s cave’ are a popular attraction. The park has the feeling of a different time set in a different world and has been liked to areas of the American Badlands.
Weird and Wonderful sights at Yehliu Geological Park
The geological park is famous for its mushroom or ‘hoodoo’ rock formations. In other parts of the world, they are typically composed of a hard rock cap that rests on a soft sedimentary pillar, shaped into dramatic and wondrous shapes by years of erosion. This is not the case in Yehliu where a study has shown that they are composed of the same soft rock throughout.
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Honeycomb rock formation (tanawatpontchour/ Adobe Stock)
These iconic rocks, geological wonders without parallel in the Asia-Pacific region, stand on flat platforms of bedrock, eroded by the wind and the waves. While many of the formations do resemble mushrooms, many have strikingly original characteristics and the more famous landmarks in the park have been named: The Queen’s Head looks like the profile of a woman and many have said it looks like Queen Elizabeth II. A rock that resembles a sea gull is known locally as the Marine Bird Rock and not far off the coast is a formation that looks like an elephant wallowing in the waves. There is also a lion’s head, a peanut, a pearl, and the Japanese Geisha Girl.
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Legends of the Park
Because of its strange rocks and other-worldly landscape, the area is the source of many local legends and delightful stories. One story tells of a turtle-elf that was behaving badly and terrorizing the local people. The Jade Emperor decided to punish him by sending a fairy who badly wounded the turtle-elf. When local people see smoke or spray on the water they say it is the breath of the wounded turtle-elf.
Local people also pray for good luck to a rocky outcrop that looks very much like a dragon’s head when passing.
History of Yehliu Geological Park
Since the publication of a book of photographs by a famous Asian photographer in recent years, the Geopark has become popular with visitors.
Pearl shaped rock formation (Cedar/ Adobe Stock)
The Taiwanese government granted the area the status of a National Park in the 1980s, but there are growing concerns that the activities of tourists are impacting negatively on the park as people touching the formations is speeding up the erosion process. While the tourists are paying the Yehliu Geopark entrance fee, which is helping to preserve the area, they are also damaging the geological formations.
How to get to Yehliu Geological Park
The Park is located in a somewhat remote area on the north coast of Taiwan, approximately 90 minutes from the capital, Taipei. Public transport is available and accommodation in the area is plentiful. The popular Yehliu Ocean World is next to the park.
Top image: Queen’s Head Rock Source: hin255/ Adobe Stock
By Ed Whelan
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