This is one of the “Cracked Eggs” that you can find in the Bisti De Na Zin Wilderness Area

This is one of the "Cracked Eggs" that you can find in the Bisti De Na Zin Wilderness Area.

This is one of the “Cracked Eggs” that you can find in the Bisti De Na Zin Wilderness Area

The Bisti Badlands look more like a dreamscape than a landscape in northern New Mexico. Totem poles of sandstone rocks, or hoodoos, reach haphazardly into the bright blue sky, some so crooked that it’s incredible that even the smallest gust of wind doesn’t overtake them.

Resting underneath them, as if Mother Nature cooked breakfast only to accidentally drop a carton onto the sandy floor of the desert and abandon the broken shells, what can only be described as giant cracked eggs. How did a bunch of giant eggs get to this desolate area? The true story starts 73 million years ago.

Hanging out with the alien eggs at Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in New Mexico

At one time, this 45.000-acre desert swath called Bisti Badlands or Bisti Wilderness Area (Bisti translates to a large area of shale hills” in Navajo) was totally submerged by a sea called the Western Interior Seaway during the Cretaceous period.

As the water receded, layers of sandstone, mudstone, shale and other sedimentary rocks were revealed, creating the Kirtland Formation, only to be carved out by braided streams that flowed through the landscape. The result is today’s dry, eerie badlands.

“Over time, erosion of the soft mudstone weathered away leaving behind channel deposits [that formed into the shape of eggs and hoodoos],” Sherrie Landon, paleontology coordinator for the Farmington District Office of the Bureau of Land Management, tells

She explains that the eggs get their colorful, speckled appearance due to mineral deposits in the stream that cut through the sedimentary rock. “The eggs’ cracks are the result of differential weathering—mudstone weathers faster than other sediments, causing the formations to crack.”

The giant egg formations, which range from five to six-and-a-half feet long, aren’t the only reason to make a three-hour pilgrimage from Albuquerque (Bisti is near Farmington, New Mexico, in the Four Corners Region of the American Southwest).

A petrified forest of juniper and other conifers makes the badlands even more post-apocalyptic. It’s the result of a massive storm that rushed through millions of years ago covering the forest in water and sediment, explains Landon. 

And then there are the dinosaurs. Fossils—including dinosaur bones—have been found in the badlands, too.

There are all kinds of hoodoos in the Bisti Badlands

“A few months ago, the National Guard airlifted fossils from a baby pentaceratops found here and brought them to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science,” Landon says. “It’s the only known fossil of a juvenile of this dinosaur species ever found.”

Don’t jump to conclusions—though the huge eggs look like prehistoric creatures could have left them behind, their origins are entirely geological. And the eggs aren’t the area’s only Easter-like treat: Bisti Badlands also boasts pastel-painted sunsets.

If you catch them at the right time, you’ll see the bright yellow sun drop behind the landscape like an egg yolk into a bowl.

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