Forest Trail Explorer

US Forest Service and Southern Research Station

Topography and Geology

Faults and Earthquakes

Faults and Dikes
The major faults of Western North Carolina discovered thus far are ancient, and none are known to be active. Most were formed during the Paleozoic mountain building episodes, around 480 to 300 million years ago. During this time, the Earth’s crust in the region was buckled (folded) and shifted many miles to the northwest along thrust faults. Some areas experienced up to three episodes of deformation and metamorphism that produced complex structures with multiple generations of... more »
Rocks of the Grandfather Mountain Formation exposed through a “window” in a thrust fault. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Geology Overview

Beginning over 60 million years ago, the geologic processes of uplift and erosion sculpted the mountain topography that influenced the creation of ecological communities, weather patterns, and the development of many natural resources. We often think of landscapes being stable and unchangeable, but weathering, erosion, and soil loss are continually in progress, and storm events that trigger landslides are but a reminder that the landscape is dynamic and constantly seeking equilibrium.
Geologic... more »
Generalized Geologic Map

Mineral Resources

The North Carolina mining and mineral industry has over 800 active permitted mines, annual sales in excess of $800 million, and an estimated employment of over 100,000 (including service and ancillary organizations). The 2007 Minerals Yearbook for North Carolina, the latest report available from the U.S. Geological Survey, values nonfuel raw mineral production at $1.2 billion for the state. With the overall direct and indirect economic impact of mining in the state of nearly $11.3 billion... more »

Mountain Topography and Geomorphology

The formation of the highly weathered mountain range began with mountain building in the Proterozoic Era that continued in the Paleozoic Era through Permian Period (between about 1 billion and 265 million years ago). Uplift renewed during the Cenozoic Era about 65 million years ago, and the modern landscape began to form. The range now consists of gneiss and schist bedrock formed from the re-crystallization of sedimentary, volcanic, and igneous material. Over time, the geology of the region has... more »

Rock Types

Granitic Bedrock and Granitic Gneiss Bedrock
Nearly 30 percent of the bedrock in the Mountain Resources Commission (MRC) region is made up of granitic bedrock and granitic gneiss bedrock, with both rock types originating as molten magma that intruded into the Earth’s crust and then cooled. The granitic rocks are the younger of the two and did not metamorphose during the Paleozoic, so they are characteristically unlayered and more uniform in appearance. In contrast, the granitic gneisses are... more »

Soil Systems

Soil Formation
Soil is a critical support system for trees and other plants, and its variable properties play an integral role in all other biological systems. Influenced by several factors, the formation of the region’s soil is dependent on topography, geology, climate, vegetation, elevation, and time, taking thousands of years to complete. The parent material is predominantly broken-down crystalline rocks composed of varying degrees of mica content and metasedimentary rocks. Additionally,... more »