Friday, April 5, 2013

Discover the secrets of Waterberg Plateau Park

Travelling to the Waterberg Plateau Park resembles a journey back in time. This holds true both in a geological sense and in the context of Namibia’s history.
From a scientific perspective a visit to Waterberg feels like a trip to the past, providing a rare glimpse into the genesis of the earth. The birth of the ancient sandstone formation can be traced to the Triassic period up to 200 million years ago, when dinosaurs ruled the planet. Some of these prehistoric reptiles left their legacy in the form of foot impressions embedded in the sandstone on top of the plateau, a permanent testimony to the millions of years the massif has endured.

Created when pressure in the earth’s crust lifted the so called Karoo layers millions of years ago, the plateau owes its elevated position to the resistance of the hardy sandstone against the forces of weathering. As a result the table mountain towering about 200 meters above the surrounding plains remains as a relic of the sedimentary rock that was raised above the landscape below. The product of the seismic forces that gave rise to the Waterberg is imposing and visible from afar: The table mountain is about 48 kilometres long and between 8 and 16 kilometres wide – impressive measurements by any standard. The most striking feature of the formation is the vertical cliff that surrounds the plateau like a halo and divides it into two separate and clearly visible strata. These two layers comprise a lower one of about 350 meters consisting of a conglomerate of various sediments and a top section of sandstone which forms the perpendicular cliffs of between 70 and 75 meters en-circling the plateau.
This characteristic Geology is generally considered to be responsible for the name Waterberg. It refers to the phenomenon that the permeable sandstone of the plateau absorbs rain water which seeps through the porous rock until it reaches the impervious clay layers beneath and emerges further down the slopes in form of various fountains. It is this steady flow of water which supports the seemingly subtropical flora on top of the highland giving it a lush green appearance contrasting sharply with the acacia savannah at the bottom of the plateau.

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