Sunday, August 25, 2013

Recommended geo-guides ... and more needed soon

Road trip gear:  the library.
This month’s Accretionary Wedge #59 features geologic field guides, a subject near and dear to my heart as I take vacations designed around geo-destinations (botany/ecology too).  Thanks to Mika of GeoMika for hosting and picking such a great topic.

I like destination-based books, especially the Geology Underfoot series.  These are collections of “vignettes” about selected sites, with background and explanations, access info, tour routes, specific things to see, etc.  The geology is pretty basic but always interesting.  I sometimes choose destinations from these guides, and then search for more information before I go.
Geology underfoot at Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada
There are two books about the geology of the western US that I’ve read and referred to again and again:  Frank DeCourten’s The Broken Land and Robert Fillmore’s Geological Evolution of the Colorado Plateau.  Both treat their subjects in depth, and I’ve learned a lot about geology in general from them.  DeCourten’s has a bonus -- intriguing essays introducing each chapter.  What is it that is so exciting about geology?  Why are we drawn to these stories?   Try to imagine visiting these paleo-environments that we’ve managed to reconstruct from rocks!
Looking east across the broken land.
I recently found another useful guide -- Roadside Geology of Nebraska by Harmon and Maher.  It's a roadside guide, but also has in-depth site-based sections.  I was very happy with it during a recent visit to the Toadstool Rocks.
Fallen toadstools.
One of my most memorable geo-vacations was planned with online resources.  I knew very little about northern New Mexico, but hit a gold mine on the web.  The New Mexico Bureau Geology and Mineral Resources maintains a Virtual Geologic Tour of New Mexico with destinations scattered throughout the state.  The virtual guides for the northern part of the state are now available as a book -- Geology of Northern New Mexico’s Parks, Monuments, and Public Lands.
The Mt. Taylor volcano sits on the Jemez Lineament in northwest New Mexico; from NMBGMR.
The Utah Geological Survey maintains an equally useful website:  Geosights.

And finally ...
This Accretionary Wedge is timely as a geo-trip is imminent.  A friend needs a ride to Seattle and it seems only logical to get there by way of Glacial Lake Missoula and the paths of its jökulhlaups.  I’m excited to see destruction wrought by cataclysmic ice age floods -- scablands, coulees, giant gravel bars, fluvial dunes, scour holes and more.  Maybe there will be a relevant guide or two among the AW submissions.  Do you have recommendations?
Boulder thought to have been transported ca 10 km by floodwater ... now that's cataclysmic!
Current reads:  David Alt's book about the humongous Pleistocene floods; John Soennichsen's guide to the scablands; V. R. Baker's "The channeled scabland:  a retrospective" (Ann. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 2009.  37:393-411.)


  1. I love the Geology Roadside series and have found a couple of other useful books to supplement my understanding of my geological surroundings. Geological Evolution of the Colorado Plateau is my newest and The Western San Juans ( is one given to me as a wonderful Christmas present

    1. cool, thanks Zach. looks like the western San Juans would be a great place to visit, and not that far.