scarp

While scarp can serve as a synonym for escarpment, it’s more commonly used to refer to discrete, relatively short sections of the larger landform, often with a modifying adjective of some sort. The traveler headed south from Tucumcari, New Mexico, will soon raise the Bluffs of the Llano Estacado, a particularly striking part of the serpentine, bare rock palisade that forms the western elevation of this extensive plateau. The rimrock along the escarpment here, near the town of Quay, is set off by a dark, narrow line of junipers—an eyebrow scarp. Elsewhere, these last few feet at the top of a similar wall might carry a slight projection, or overhang, of caprock—a hognose scarp. Typically, an escarpment is too massive in scale—like the Adirondack Mountains or Okefenokee Swamp—to imagine all at once. A virtually unscalable escarpment on the eastern side of the Kaiparowits Plateau in southern Utah is called Fifty-Mile Mountain. The Balcones Escarpment, the southeastern scarp of the Llano Estacado, is another wall that can’t be gathered in one look, though it figures prominently, like a smaller-scale object, in the agrarian history of East Texas. Even the Niagara Escarpment, over whose nickpoint the Niagara River cascades, is impossible to point out to a viewer in its entirety. It is, rather, by the subdivision of a continuous landscape that eyebrow and hognose scarps are singled out along the general trend surfacing for rural roads and drives, creating the “pink” roads of western regions, such as Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.

Larry Woiwode