Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Study Butte

with 34 comments

Terlingua Formations 9769

There’s a little settlement just west of Big Bend National Park called Study Butte, whose first word is pronounced as if it were Stoody. On November 22nd I took this view of the geological formations there, whose strata now remind me a little of the Pancake Rocks in New Zealand.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 29, 2015 at 5:21 AM

34 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Structures made of food…I found this today. http://bit.ly/1VnCMPF

    Jim Ruebush

    December 29, 2015 at 7:04 AM

    • The structures you linked to are different from any I’d have thought of, but they are made of food, and pancakes are indeed food. Now I’m reminded that there’s a small town north of Austin called Oatmeal.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 29, 2015 at 8:32 AM

  2. Once upon a time, I would have pronounced the formation’s name as if I were saying, “I’d study, but…”
    I remember giggles in class when we first met the word butte in grade school geography class.

    Might that be a creosote bush at the base of the rocks? It’s interesting that it seems not at all overwhelmed by the mountain. Somehow, its presence is bigger than its size.


    December 29, 2015 at 7:26 AM

    • You’re right, Linda, it does. Have you read “The Oregon Trail” by Rinker Buck? I highly recommend it. There is a passage in in about sagebrush that for some reason came to mind when I read your comment.


      December 29, 2015 at 8:09 AM

      • I wasn’t aware of that book, but there was an earlier one (1847) with the same title:


        I seem to remember my father had a copy of that one but I never read it.

        Steve Schwartzman

        December 29, 2015 at 8:55 AM

        • Oh, yes, I’ve seen that one but never read it. The Rinker Buck one is an autobiographical one. He decides to buy himself some mules and a wagon and head out. Isn’t that cool? It is a good read.


          December 30, 2015 at 8:15 AM

          • Now that you’ve said that, I think I’ve heard of his venture. In fact there was something about it on our Austin PBS station last month.

            Steve Schwartzman

            December 30, 2015 at 8:18 AM

      • No, I haven’t read that, Melissa. In fact, I’ve not read much at all about the far west. Once I finish my books about the Santa Fe trail, maybe I’ll move on to the Oregon.


        December 29, 2015 at 8:27 PM

    • There’s a confusion of butts in English that I’ve never been able to make complete etymological sense of:


      Note that butt-3 and butt-4 were spelled butte in Middle English. The current English butte apparently comes from the same source as butt-3:


      I’m sorry to say I don’t know if that’s a creosote bush in this picture. I could easily have walked over to it, but I didn’t because at that moment I was thinking so much about the landscape there rather than any of the plants in view.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 29, 2015 at 8:48 AM

      • Whichever plant it is, the effect is the same, and just as pleasing.


        December 29, 2015 at 8:51 AM

      • I was looking for flood projections for the Atchafalaya river in Louisiana, and remembered the little basin town at the bend in the river, called Butte LaRose (or, in the past, Butte-a-la-Rose). Sure enough, It’s on the highest ground in the basin, at the confluence of several streams. Its position on the river and on the rise made it militarily important during the Civil War.

        So, there are buttes in dry west Texas, and buttes in wet, swampy Louisiana.


        December 29, 2015 at 8:53 PM

  3. It is neat how the two rock formations reveal entirely different structure.


    December 29, 2015 at 8:07 AM

    • Where’s a geologist when we need one? It would be good to have an expert identify each formation and explain how the two can be so different. If I’m not mistaken, the road coming down from Alpine passes between the two structures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 29, 2015 at 9:02 AM

  4. Breathtaking–shows a subtle palette by Mother Nature.


    December 29, 2015 at 8:32 AM

  5. Love the strata layers – definitely like the pancake rocks here in New Zealand.

    Raewyn's Photos

    December 29, 2015 at 1:20 PM

  6. A very impressive landscape and formations. Very different than we have up here but equally beautiful:)


    December 29, 2015 at 1:39 PM

    • If you ever crave a change in latitude, you’ll find much to like in the deserts of the southwestern United States. Just don’t go during the hottest half of the year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 29, 2015 at 5:09 PM

  7. Can’t say why, exactly, but on first glance this reminded of the Sphinx. I’ve enjoyed the look at the exposed sedimentary rock in this and the previous Cerro Castellan post.

    Steve Gingold

    December 29, 2015 at 4:29 PM

    • Maybe you’re psychic. A couple of days ago I looked through my images from this trip and was reminded that on my way out of Big Bend the day after this Study Butte picture I’d photographed a smaller rock formation that seemed Sphinx-like to me. Telepathy aside, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the sedimentary views.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 29, 2015 at 5:15 PM

  8. I haven’t seen the rocks in NZ but I hear they are amazing .. Great shot Steve


    December 30, 2015 at 2:05 PM

    • Get thee to the Pancake Rocks, as Hamlet might have said had he been in New Zealand rather than Denmark. Then you can go to the American Southwest and compare.

      Happy New Year, which you’ll welcome over there the better part of a day before we do over here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 30, 2015 at 2:29 PM

      • Thank you and Happy New Year to you too! I have a friend who lives near the rocks in NZ .. I must go! Be nice to make that comparison 😃


        December 30, 2015 at 5:59 PM

  9. […] week Steve Gingold commented that some rock formations in Study Butte reminded him of a Sphinx. That in turn reminded me that after I’d started the long trek home […]

  10. What a treat this place would be for texture and geology lovers. Look at all those different layers. I like the contrast between the different forms in this shot. Now that’s a place I would spend a long time photographing. Excellent shot, Steve.


    January 23, 2016 at 12:58 AM

    • From what I’ve seen on television, Australia has some great geological features as well. We should trade places for a few weeks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 23, 2016 at 4:52 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: