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Alabama Hills are a rocky formation on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains in the Owens Valleymarker of Californiamarker, near Lone Pine, Californiamarker. Though geographically considered a range of hills, geologically they are a part of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as the Alabama Hills Recreation Area, they are protected. The rounded contours of the Alabamas contrast with the sharp ridges of the Sierra Nevada to the west. Though this might suggest that they formed from a different orogeny, the Alabamas are the same age as the nearby Sierras . The difference in wear can be accounted for by different patterns of erosion.

Mount Whitneymarker, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United Statesmarker, towers several thousand feet above this low range, which itself is above the floor of Owens Valley. However, gravity surveys indicate that the Owens Valley is filled with about of sediment and that the Alabamas are the tip of a very steep escarpment. This feature may have been created by many earthquakes similar to the 1872 Lone Pine earthquakemarker which, in a single event, caused a vertical displacement of 15–20 feet.

There are two main types of rock exposed at Alabama Hills. One is an orange, drab weathered metamorphosed volcanic rock that is 150-200 million years old. The other type of rock exposed here is 90 million year old granite which weathers to potato-shaped large boulders, many of which stand on end due to spheroidal weathering acting on many nearly vertical joints in the rock.

Dozens of natural arches are among the main attractions at the Alabama Hills. They can be accessed by short hikes from the Whitney Portal Road, the Movie Flat Road and the Horseshoe Meadows Road. Among the notable features of the area are: Mobius Arch, Lathe Arch, the Eye of Alabama and Whitney Portal Arch.

History

Typical rocks in Alabama Hills
The Alabama Hills were named for CSS Alabamamarker. When news of the Confederate warship's exploits reached prospectors in California sympathetic to the Confederates, they named many mining claims after her, and the name came to be applied to the entire mountain range. Then, when Alabama was sunk off the coast of Normandy by USS Kearsarge in 1864, prospectors sympathetic to the North named a mining district, mountain pass, a peak, and a town after Kearsarge.

Film location

The Alabama Hills are a popular location for television and movie productions (especially Westerns) set in an archetypical "rugged" environment. Since the early 1920s, 150 movie and about a dozen television shows have been filmed here, including Tom Mix films, Hopalong Cassidy films, The Gene Autry Show, and The Lone Ranger. Classics such as Gunga Din, Springfield Rifle, and How the West Was Won, as well as more recent productions such as Tremors and Joshua Tree, were filmed at sites known as Movie Flats and Movie Flat Road. In Gladiator, actor Russell Crowe rides a horse in front of the Alabamas, with Mount Whitney in the background, for a scene presumably set in Spainmarker. Star Trek Generations was filmed here in addition to Overton, Nevadamarker and Paramount Studios. More recently, many parts of the films Ironman and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen were filmed here.

References

  • Geology Underfoot in Death Valley and Owens Valley, Sharp, Glazner (Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula; 1997) ISBN 0-87842-362-1.


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