“(Adams County) is home to more than 20 named rock formations that in geological terms are mesas or buttes, but are more typically referred to as mounds or bluffs.
“The sandstone formations are the remnants of islands in Glacial Lake Wisconsin, which was formed when ice plugged up the Wisconsin River near the Dells during the last Wisconsin glaciation. Wind and waves eroded the soft sandstone sides of the formations, leaving behind the steep-sided mesas, buttes (smaller bluffs) and pinnacles (narrow columns) you see today.”
The organization Geocaching provides a different perspective, asserting the “rapid drainage of the glacial lake” (Glacial Lake Wisconsin) left an “isolated pinnacle of Cambrian sandstone.” It says the pinnacles “owe their steepness to wave erosion by Glacial Lake Wisconsin.” Geocaching emphasizes that the formation is “unique and fragile” since it consists mainly of sandstone.
Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, UW-Green Bay, took some students on a field trip in May 2011 that visited Shiprock. He wrote,
“Ship Rock is a prominent landmark on highway 21. A prominent joint runs the length of the rock, possibly a conduit for fluids that cemented the sandstone and made it more resistant to erosion.”
The pinnacle stands out amidst flat land. It is sad to see the graffiti plastered on the lower sections of the formation.
Nonetheless, Shiprock is a beautiful sight. You can walk around the pinnacle on a well-worn path which at times will make you forget you are so close to the highway.
Let’s take a walk-around.
I was surprised to spot two guys who had climbed up the front side of Shiprock.
I watched them for a while. They had spotted a hole or crevice of some sort. You can see them discussing what to do.
One of them climbed in on his belly. You can see the reddish-brown bottom of his sneakers top center.
I have read a few reviews done by rock climbers. They are not enamored with climbing Shiprock, in part because the sandstone breaks off easily, in part because it’s not challenging enough.