Skip to main content

Images: Amazing Mima Mounds

Mysterious Mima mounds

Mima mounds

(Image credit: Dan Schreiber | Shutterstock)

One of the world's weirdest landscapes, Mima mounds are found on every continent but Antarctica. These rounded little hills are spaced evenly on flat grasslands, covering the prairie like upended egg cartons. Their origin has defied explanation, but recent research suggests burrowing gophers, working individually for generations, build the mounds in 500 to 700 years.

April flowers

Mima mounds

(Image credit: Washington State DNR)

Spring wildflowers carpet Mima Mounds National Area Preserve in Washington. Mima mounds were named in 1841, when the vast Mima prairie was discovered in western Washington during the United States Exploring Expedition.

Pimply plain

Mima mounds

(Image credit: Washington State DNR)

A closeup aerial photo of Mima Mounds National Area Preserve in Washington. Early explorers thought Mima mounds were Native American burial sites, but the mounds were empty when they looked inside.

California crenulations

Mima mounds

(Image credit: Manny Gabet)

Mima mounds in California's Central Valley, where San Jose State University geologist Manny Gabet studied budding Mima mounds on abandoned farmland. Gabet discovered that the Mima mounds are the "great pyramids" of the gophers.

Bumpy field

mima mound lidar

(Image credit: Manny Gabet/Geomorphology)

A lidar image, created by scanning the Earth's surface with lasers, reveals the regular spacing between Mima mounds near Merced, Calif.

Modeling earthmovers

Mima mounds

(Image credit: Manny Gabet)

A computer model of Mima mound formation created by geologist Manny Gabet. The model closely resembles the regular spacing of these eerie landscapes. Gabet set loose virtual gophers in soils that mimicked the same conditions seen at Mima mound sites.

Mystery solved?

Mima mounds

(Image credit: Zack Frank | Shutterstock)

The verdant grassy landscape of Mima mounds, which can rise to 8 feet (2.5 meters) tall and 30 feet (9 m) wide. Upwards-burrowing gophers may be the source of the mounds, according to one recent study.