Something evil may be cooking up in places given the name of the “Devil’s Kitchen”. In this piece, I examine some of the most famous locations that have earned this unpleasant name. It sounds like someplace you don’t want to end up but in reality, the various “DKs” are geologically interesting and fascinating places.
There are three places in Utah called Devil’s Kitchen. One in Millard County is a volcanic formation named for the unusual sound that the rocks made when wagons crossed it – “like tapping on a drumhead or on the flat tin roof of the devil’s kitchen”. Some of the boulders along the Devil’s Kitchen fault scarp here contain petroglyphs. The Devil’s Pocket trail in the Canyonlands National Park near Moab “is a little like walking down a long, wide racetrack, with parallel walls of sandstone that rise along either side like bleachers for the imaginary spectators”. This leads to another “kitchen” featuring a quite place of rounded blobs and tall spires of banded rock. But the most popular DK in UT is the scenic sculpted rock landscape with pillars of red sandstone along the Nebo Scenic Loop in the Uinta State Forest. Consisting of a red, iron-rich conglomerate, the outlook is accessible to wheelchairs, strollers, and kids.
The Devil’s Kitchen in Sedona, Arizona is a vertical sinkhole that appeared in the early 1880s due to a sudden collapse of the rock cave roof. It expanded with another collapse in 1989. The area is considered unstable. The limestone weathered deep under the surface and is not obvious through the overlying sandstone. More unstable hidden areas may exist in the area.
Five miles east of Greybull, Wyoming, is a dry and barren badlands landscape. It’s “bad land” as plants don’t grow. The land is steep slopes and ravines, with colorful spires of rock. The Devil’s Kitchen here is an asymmetric anticline. The Geology of Wyoming site says “Devil’s Kitchen was originally known by the less dramatic name of Shell Dome, but tourist attractions need a name that is hot and spicy.” Oil wells drilled here came up empty but you may find dinosaur gizzard stones called gastroliths among the colorful layers.
It’s not clear how the Devil’s Kitchen of Burlington, Connecticut got its name. But one blogger thinks it derived from either the treacherous steep walls or the abundance of biting insects.
The Devil’s Kitchen Lake in Illinois is one of the deepest lakes in the state – up to 90 feet – formed from glacial downstream effects. Swimming is dangerous (and banned) because of the cold deep water and various tree stumps that remain under the water. The Natives believed the lake had a sinister nature.
At Mackinac Island, Michigan, a small shallow cave called Devil’s Kitchen was formed in breccia limestone. The cave formed during the Nipissing post-glacial period by the waves of Lake Huron. It consists of two hollows on top of each other, resembling a face with a giant maw. Local legends say that the Natives considered the cave inhabited by evil cannibalistic spirits with soot on the outside marking the cooking fires – hence the name, ‘Devil’s Kitchen.’
…for in this cave lived the Red Geebis, who were cannibal giants. The Geebis were known to roast and eat humans inside this cave. [Source]
But it’s not clear if these tales are genuine lore or made up much later. The cave is currently on dry land.
The most appropriately hot and steamy site called Devil’s Kitchen is within the Lassen volcanic area in a place that resembles hell – with steaming fumeroles, boiling pools, bubbling mudpots and sulphur deposits. Red algae growing in the nutrient-rich waters may look ominous. This is a geothermal area where acidic hot springs have eaten away the rock to form pits. The site gets its name from the sounds and smells of various things “cooking” in the earth, including you, if you take a bad step. A visitor was badly burned in 2010. An even larger thermal area in the park is called Bumpass Hell named after the poor soul who burned his leg so badly there in the 1860s.