Glass Mountains

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Glass Mountain, capped with massive gypsum, Major County, Oklahoma. (USGS photo by George Irving Adams, 1900) GlassMtsOK 1904 agi00116.jpg
Glass Mountain, capped with massive gypsum, Major County, Oklahoma. (USGS photo by George Irving Adams, 1900)
Glass Mountains seen from the top of a mesa at Glass Mountains State Park (2007) Gloss Mountains.jpg
Glass Mountains seen from the top of a mesa at Glass Mountains State Park (2007)

The Glass Mountains (also known as Gloss Mountains or Gloss Hills) are not actually mountains, but a series of mesas and buttes that are part of the Blaine Escarpment that extends from the Permian red beds of northwestern Oklahoma in Major County. [lower-alpha 1] The Glass Mountains rise 150 feet (46 m) to 200 feet (61 m) above the surface of the plains, and the highest elevation in the formation is about 1,600 feet (490 m) above sea level. The Glass Mountains stretch west along U.S. Route 412 from Orienta south of the Cimarron River. [3] The name comes from the sparkling selenite crystals on the slopes and tops of the mesas. [lower-alpha 2]

Butte Isolated hill with steep, often vertical sides and a small, relatively flat top

In geomorphology, a butte is an isolated hill with steep, often vertical sides and a small, relatively flat top; buttes are smaller landforms than mesas, plateaus, and tablelands. The word "butte" comes from a French word meaning "small hill"; its use is prevalent in the Western United States, including the southwest where "mesa" is used for the larger landform. Because of their distinctive shapes, buttes are frequently landmarks in plains and mountainous areas. In differentiating mesas and buttes, geographers use the rule of thumb that a mesa has a top that is wider than its height, while a butte has a top that is narrower than its height.

The Permian is a geologic period and system which spans 47 million years from the end of the Carboniferous Period 298.9 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Triassic period 251.902 Mya. It is the last period of the Paleozoic era; the following Triassic period belongs to the Mesozoic era. The concept of the Permian was introduced in 1841 by geologist Sir Roderick Murchison, who named it after the city of Perm.

Red beds

Red beds are sedimentary rocks, which typically consist of sandstone, siltstone, and shale that are predominantly red in color due to the presence of ferric oxides. Frequently, these red-colored sedimentary strata locally contain thin beds of conglomerate, marl, limestone, or some combination of these sedimentary rocks. The ferric oxides, which are responsible for the red color of red beds, typically occur as a coating on the grains of sediments comprising red beds. Classic examples of red beds are the Permian and Triassic strata of the western United States and the Devonian Old Red Sandstone facies of Europe.



During the Quaternary Period, the most recent one million years, Pleistocene terraces were laid down along the major rivers in this area of the United States, with Holocene alluvium that are at least 100 feet (30 m) thick and contain sand, gravel, silt, clay and volcanic ash. [2]

Alluvium Loose soil or sediment that is eroded and redeposited in a non-marine setting

Alluvium is loose, unconsolidated soil or sediment that has been eroded, reshaped by water in some form, and redeposited in a non-marine setting. Alluvium is typically made up of a variety of materials, including fine particles of silt and clay and larger particles of sand and gravel. When this loose alluvial material is deposited or cemented into a lithological unit, or lithified, it is called an alluvial deposit.

The next layer was formed during the Permian Period, which occurred 230 to 270 million years ago. This consists of red sandstone and shale which is 1,000 feet (300 m) to 4,500 feet (1,400 m) thick, with gypsum on the outcroppings. The Permian "redbeds" are subdivided into the Cimarronian Series (2850 feet) at the base, overlain by the Custerian Series (400 feet, top eroded). Deposits of Flowerpot shale (180 feet (55 m) to 430 feet (130 m)) that consists mainly of red-brown illitic-chloritic shale, are found at this area. [2]


The first American explorers referred to this feature as the "Shining Mountains," when they saw the formation in 1821. [3] The name Glass Mountains has been attributed to an explorer named Thomas James. [5] James visited this area during 1821, while on a trading expedition along the Cimarron River. [6] In 1875, a transcription error by a mapmaker resulted in the name Gloss Mountains which is still a somewhat common name for the mountains. [7]

The region became part of the Cherokee Outlet during the 19th Century. In 1891, botanist George Walter Stevens, started collecting specimens in the Glass Mountains domain for his dissertation. The University of Oklahoma Bebb Herbarium holds 4,500 samples that Stevens collected statewide. Two cacti he may have collected in the Glass Mountains area are Echinocereus caespitosus and Opuntia phaecantha. [3]

Cherokee Outlet

The Cherokee Outlet, or Cherokee Strip, was located in what is now the state of Oklahoma in the United States. It was a sixty-mile (97 km) wide parcel of land south of the Oklahoma-Kansas border between the 96th and 100th meridians. The Cherokee Outlet was created in 1836. The United States forced the Cherokee Nation of Indians to cede to the United States all lands east of the Mississippi River in exchange for a reservation and an "outlet" in Indian Territory. At the time of its creation, the Cherokee Outlet was about 225 miles (360 km) long. The cities of Enid, Woodward, and Ponca City would later be founded within the boundaries of what had been the Cherokee Outlet.

State park

The state of Oklahoma operates the 640 acres (260 ha) Glass (Gloss) Mountain State Park, 6 miles (9.7 km) west of Orienta on a mesa along Highway 412. [3] The park allows climbers to hike to the top of the mesa via a path and stairs. Picnic tables and an informational kiosk have been installed, and a pond known as Rattlesnake Lake is nearby. [8]

Orienta, Oklahoma Unincorporated community in Oklahoma, United States

Orienta is a small unincorporated community located at the junction U.S. Highway 60 and U.S. Highway 412 in Major County, Oklahoma. It lies north of Fairview, east of the Glass Mountains and south of the Cimarron River. The post office was established March 12, 1901, and took its name from the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway along which it was built,


  1. Glass Mountains is the "official name", but local residents still use the name Gloss Mountains. [2]
  2. Selenite is a form of the mineral gypsum, which is composed of calcium silicate (CaSO4), also known as isinglass. [4]

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Geology of Kansas

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U.S. Route 412 in Oklahoma highway in Oklahoma

U.S. Route 412 is a U.S. highway in the south-central portion of the United States, connecting Springer, New Mexico to Columbia, Tennessee. A 504.11-mile (811.29 km) section of the highway crosses the state of Oklahoma, traversing the state from west to east. Entering the state southwest of Boise City, US-412 runs the length of the Oklahoma Panhandle and serves the northern portion of the state's main body, before leaving the state at West Siloam Springs. Along the way, the route serves many notable cities and towns, including Boise City, Guymon, Woodward, Enid, and the state's second-largest city, Tulsa.

Black Mesa State Park

Black Mesa State Park is an Oklahoma state park in Cimarron County, near the western border of the Oklahoma panhandle and New Mexico. The park is located about 15 miles (24 km) away from its namesake, Black Mesa, the highest point in Oklahoma. The mesa was named for the layer of black lava rock that coats it.

Gloss Mountain State Park

Glass Mountains State Park is an Oklahoma state park located in Major County, Oklahoma, near the city of Fairview, Oklahoma. A recreational-educational park that is accessible 365 days a year for hiking and picnicking, from sunrise to sunset. There are no campsites or other overnight accommodations in the park. Facilities include a restroom, pavilions, picnic areas, grills, public water supply, handicap trail to historical marker, and a hiking trail from base parking lot to the top of Cathedral Mountain and across the mesa to view the valley floor and Lone Peak Mountain. Points of interest include land geography, geological formations, Selenite gypsum, scenery and wildlife. This range is also known as the Glass Mountains.

Great Salt Plains State Park

Great Salt Plains State Park is a 840-acre (3.4 km2) Oklahoma state park located in Alfalfa County, Oklahoma. It is located 8 miles (13 km) north of Jet, Oklahoma on SH-38 and 12 miles (19 km) east of Cherokee. Recreational opportunities at Great Salt Plains State Park include boating, camping, picnicking, swimming, hiking, mountain biking and exploring. The Great Salt Plains Lake is located at the park and covers 9,300 acres (38 km2) with 41 miles (66 km) of shoreline and is a shallow, salty lake with fishing opportunities for catfish, saugeye, sandbass and hybrid striper. The average depth is reportedly 4 feet (1.2 m) and the impoundment capacity is 31,420 acre-feet. Salinity of the water in the reservoir is one-fourth that of sea water. Personal watercraft are not recommended. The park has RV and tent sites, comfort stations with showers, cabins, picnic sites, group shelters, swimming beach, playgrounds, boat ramps, fishing dock and equestrian trails. Horse rental is not available.


  1. Adams, George Irving. 1904. Gypsum deposits in the United States. U.S. Geological Survey, Bulletin 223, 129 pp. (Plate 15-A)
  2. 1 2 3 [">"Major County Economic Development Corporation." Accessed February 24, 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 4 McPhail, Melanie L. and Richard A. Marston. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. "Glass Mountains." Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  4. "Glass Mountains Oklahoma." Geocaching blog. Accessed February 22, 206.
  5. Benjamin Propelka. "Scenic USA - Oklahoma: Gloss Mountains State Park." 2012. Accessed February 22, 2016.
  6. Thomas, Phillip Drennan. "James, Thomas (1782-1847)." Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Accessed February 22, 2016.
  7. Burchardt, Bill. 1970. "The Glass Mountains: Our Treasure in Trust." Oklahoma Today. 21(1):29-38.
  8. Zane, Matt. "If You’re From Oklahoma, These Mountains Will Make Your Jaw Drop." January 18, 2016. Accessed February 24, 2016

See also

Coordinates: 36°21′13″N98°35′05″W / 36.353646°N 98.584805°W / 36.353646; -98.584805