Nature & Science

Nature and Science

Devils Postpile National Monument is a small but rich environment. Located on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada range between 7,200 and 8,200 feet (2,200 to 2,500 meters), the monument contains an interesting assemblage of flora, fauna and geology.

Devils Postpile National Monument's landscape is a reflection of fire and ice. The eruption and uniform cooling of basalt lava created an impressive formation of hexagonal columns. A glacial event exposed the columns and polished the top of the formation, revealing the striking pattern of hexagons that formed as the basalt contracted and cracked during cooling. Several other lava flows have occurred in the monument and surrounding area. Evidence of volcanic activity persists and can be observed at the monument's soda spring.

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The flora and fauna at Devils Postpile are typical of the Sierra Nevada. Visitors can see animals such as chipmunks, black bear, eagles, and deer. Plants such as pine and fir trees abound, as well as many wildflowers. Click here to learn more about plants and animals.

Though technically a west slope location, close proximity to the eastern slop of the Sierra Nevada and a low pass creates conditions that allow species from both sides to mix more easily. The unique geography of the area fosters relatively high species diversity concentrated in a small area. Soda Springs Meadow, near the monument Ranger Station, harbors an abundance of songbirds and wildflowers. The talus at the base of Devils Postpile is home to many squirrels and chipmunks and the pine martens who hunt them. Another asset in terms ofr biodiversity is the burned area near Rainbow Falls, which provides habitat for many plants and animals that do not live in heavily forested areas. Measureing and monitoring biodiversity in America's parks is important to the National Park Service. Devils Postpile is part of the Sierra Nevada Network for Inventory and Monitoring which keeps track of species known to live and migrate through the monument and partners with researchers for other monitoring. The monument also monitors habitats such as wetlands as well as factors that impact habitat such as air quality, river flow, and climate.

Last updated: March 18, 2020

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