The ‘Flysch of Bizkaia – Flysch of Barrika’

23 July, 2019 troka Blog MICE EN

The ‘Flysch of Bizkaia – Flysch of Barrika’

El “Flysch de Bizkaia – Flysch de Barrika”

Barrika, and more specifically, the Muriola beach houses one of the richest and most stunning ‘flysch’ formations in the world. To continue, we will explain why but before starting it would be interesting to describe what we mean when we use the word ‘flysch’.

The term ‘flysch’ is dated and originates from the German language. Its literal definition is ‘slide’, ‘flow’ or ‘land that slips’.

The flysch are rocky formations made up from sedimentary rock with a series of unique characteristics, whereby they alternate between sheets of hard stone like slate, limestone or sandstone with layers of softer material such as clay. Over time, erosion rapidly wears away the softer layers leaving the harder strata exposed, in themselves, worn away at a slower rate. This process is known as differential erosion.

So how do these sedimentary rock formations occur?

The different layers begin stratifying at the bottom of the ocean due to sediment accumulation consisting of varying densities. This build-up forms a laminate structure. Over time, and through different geological phenomena, these formations finally appear at the surface, creating spectacular and very distinct landscapes.

Many geologists consider flysch as one of the most important geological treasures in the world. Furthermore, through its different layers, scientists can gain access to the most significant geological episodes on Earth, spanning over millions of years. It is, therefore, not difficult to imagine why so many people regard these natural formations as authentic history books of rock.

Peculiarities of the Flysch of Barrika

There are various reasons why the Flysch of Barrika is a rarity. Firstly, it has ancient strata or layers dating back to more than 140 million years ago. These layers formed at the bottom of the ocean when the Basque Country was completely covered by the sea. At a single moment in history, both the Pyrenees mountain and the Cantabrian coast were raised above the water level exposing, in full view, these impressive formations.

Apart from that, the Flysch of Barrika occupies a relatively small expanse of area compared to other flysch sites; nevertheless, its varied layers are more pronounced having been formed at distinctly different geological stages. This makes their contrasting strata unique, worldwide.

Another consideration is that Neanderthal archaeological remains have been found in the Barrika area. For the Neanderthals, silex (flint) rock was an invaluable material, used for ornamental bead making right up to fishing utensils, arrow heads or spears, axes, knives and great variety of tools. For that reason, the cliffs of Barrika, rich in silex, were converted into an artisan centre of which, more than 150,000 years ago, had different workshops visited by the first humans. The visitors came from not only Bizkaia, but also Alava, Gipuzkoa, Navarra and extending into Asturias and Cantabria.

Unsurprisingly, the open-air deposits at Aranbaltza are considered one of the most important in the world.

Meanwhile, the silex obtained from the Flysch at Barrika is a darker shade of grey and contains different marine fossils.

Get to know the Flysch of Barrika guided by Troka Abentura

If you would like to see this beautiful site first-hand and discover its secrets written in the rocks, the Bio-Geo Ruta prepared by Troka Abentura is for you. Guided by one of our instructors and geologists, and accompanied by a group of your friends or colleagues from work, you can bear witness to this exceptional place of history created millions of years ago.

Also available are other outdoor experiences in the surrounding areas of the Flysch:

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