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Exploring the Geology of the Carolinas

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Exploring the Geology of the Carolinas
A Field Guide to Favorite Places From Chimney Rock to Charleston
A Southern Gateways Guide
By Kevin G. Steward and Mary-Russell Roberson
The University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill (2007)
ISBN: 978-0-8078-5786-1

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - April 6, 2015

From the Blue Ridge to the coast, Exploring the Geology of the Carolinas: A Field Guide to Favorite Places From Chimney Rock to Charleston provides readers with a grand tour of Carolinian geology that is ideal for both armchair tourist as well as more adventurous spirits who want to get out and explore this remarkable region in person. As with most travel guides, Exploring the Geology of the Carolinas lists a host of sites to visit, along with instructions on how to get to these sites and what you can do and see at each site.

In addition, this book also provides a concise and lively overview of geologic time and the geological history of the Carolinas. It also provides an eye-opening chapter (literally) on how to read rocks - and even how the taste of and texture of a rock can help you identify its type! Along the way, an overview of plate tectonics is covered along with an explanation of how the landscape of the three main areas, Blue Ridge, Piedmont, and the Coastal Plain developed and changed over time. This introductory section comprises five chapters. The geological introduction offered is presented in a clear and nontechnical format. It provides readers without a geological background with a sufficient understanding of the geology of the Carolinas to understand the information presented in the rest of the text. This information will also help them to identify and understand the importance of some of the geological features that they might see in the field.

Following the introductory chapters, the text moves on to describe thirty-six different locations where visitors can explore the geological history of the region. The information is organized into three geographical sections, covering the Blue Ridge area, the Piedmont, and the Coastal Plain. The sites are spread throughout both North and South Carolina, and most are within an easy days drive of each other. Additionally, some of the sites are close enough so that you might be able to visit two or three nearby sites all in the same day if your time in the region is short. The sites covered include a wide range of well-known locations such as Chimney Rock, Grandfather Mountain, Stone Mountain, Crowders Mountain, and Carolina Beach. Lesser known, but no less spectacular locations are also included such as Woodall Shoals, Reed Gold Mine, Durham Triassic Basin, Cliffs of the Neuse, and Oregon Inlet. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is also included. While not an outdoor location, it is well worth a visit to get a panorama view of the wonders of the state, and the natural sciences in general.

Written by Kevin G. Steward, an associate professor of geological sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Mary-Russell Roberson, a freelance writer, this combination of skills was well matched, and they produced a book that is both informative and an enjoyable read. Throughout, maps are provided to help you locate the sites you want to visit, as well as pictures of some of the most important features that you will see on your visit. These pictures are in black and white, so they don't display the full glory of the sites. Rather they give you a taste of what you can see and experience at these sites, and as such they serve to encourage you to get out and see these marvels in person. When applicable, the authors have listed nearby features that might be of interest, as well as suggested readings.

Not only will Exploring the Geology of the Carolinas help you to map out your travels, but once you leave home, don't forget to take the book with you. In addition to explaining how to get to each location and what you might see there, the authors have provided edifying overviews of the geological history of each site, as well as some more current tidbits of local information. It also provides guidance, once you are out of your car, on how to access some of the more intriguing geological features at each local. Throughout, these overviews are both accessible to those without any scientific background, while also authoritative enough for those who want to gain a deeper understanding of the geological features they are exploring. A helpful glossary of terms is included toward the end of the book, as well as a list of additional resources, both books and maps, which will aid you in planning your next visit to one, or all, of these sites, as well as for learning more about the geology and natural history of the Carolinas.

From beginning to end, Exploring the Geology of the Carolinas is a fascinating book not only to read, but to go exploring with. I've already been to many of the sites mentioned in this book, and I now plan to go back and revisit these sites with the book in hand so that I will better understand what I am looking at. This is, to the best of my knowledge the best single text on the geology of the Carolinas that is accessible to both general travelers and geologists alike. Next time you plan a trip to the Carolinas, skip the theme parks and see something truly amazing. If you are not already a geo-geek, you might find yourself one after visiting these sites. And don't forget to pack the kids - seeing a few really neat rocks is just what is needed to start a future geologist budding!


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