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[answered] 14 Physiographic Provinces Bradley Deline 14.1 Introduction

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14 Physiographic Provinces


Bradley Deline 14.1 Introduction


If you took a road trip across the continental United States of America you


would see significant changes in the landscape in terms of the topography, rocks,


soils, geological structures, and plant life that are evident even through the car


window on the highway. Regions vary in their geologic history, from the rocky


coastline of New England, to the flat plains of the Midwest, to the sharp peaks of


the Rocky Mountains, to the volcanoes of the Pacific Northwest, these (and the


many other) observable differences across the United States can be broken into


physiographic provinces. Physiographic provinces are identifiable by their distinctive landforms, geologic features, and suites of rocks.


You can observe such diverse geologic characteristics across the state of Georgia from the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the North, to the iconic red


clay of Middle Georgia, to the flat Coastal Plain. As we discuss the physiographic


provinces of Georgia, we will also explore regional geologic resources that benefit


the state as well as the major river systems that provide water for our state. Lastly,


the tools and knowledge you have gained in this lab manual will aid your reconstruction of the various physiographic province geologies. 14.1.1 Learning Outcomes


After completing this chapter, you should be able to:


? Distinguish the different physiographic provinces of the United States


based on their topography, geology, and other features


? Identify the physiographic features of the different geological provinces


of Georgia


? Describe the major natural resources within Georgia including


minerals, building rock, and water Page | 334 Introductory Geology Physiogr aphic Provinces 14.1.2 Key Terms


? Adirondack Mountains


Province ? Fall Line ? Appalachian Plateau


Province ? Interior Lowlands Province ? Great Plains Province


? New England Province ? Basin and Range Province ? Physiographic Province ? Blue Ridge Province ? Piedmont Province ? Cascade Range ? Rocky Mountains ? Coastal Plain ? Sierra Nevada Range ? Colorado Plateau ? Valley and Ridge Province ? Columbia Plateau 14.2 Physiographic Provinces of the United


States Of America


The physiographic provinces of the United States of America can be broken


into three different broad areas: Western, Central, and Eastern regions (Figure


14.1). Adjacent provinces will share features or will at least be affected by the geologic events that define the nearby region. The Western Provinces are shaped by


relatively young events (Post-Paleozoic), which are mostly the result of an active


plate tectonic margin (the edge of the continent is also the edge of a tectonic plate). Figure 14.1 | Physiographic provinces of the continental United States of America.


Author: User ?Kbh3rd?


Source: Wikimedia Commons


License: CC BY 3.0 Page | 335 Introductory Geology Physiogr aphic Provinces The Eastern Provinces are a mix between young and old geologic events. Most of


the individual provinces within this region result from the deformation of ancient


mountain building as well as the recent passive sedimentary buildup observable


today. Since the Central Provinces of the country has been largely shielded from


tectonic activity, this area is flatter and less deformed than the United States?


coasts. Before the individual provinces are discussed in depth, it will be helpful to


review the geologic time scale that was presented in Chapter 1. 14.2.1 Western U.S.


The geologic provinces in the Western United States occupy roughly a third of


the country and stretch from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. We can


group this tectonically active area into four types of provinces: the Rocky Mountains, the Coastal Pacific Mountain System, Interior Plateaus, and the extensional


Basin and Range.


The Rocky Mountains are an immense range that stretches from New Mexico


to Northern Canada. The Rocky Mountains first started to form during the Late Paleozoic, but their main growth occurred during the Laramide Orogeny during the


Late Mesozoic and Early Cenozoic. An orogeny is a large-scale deformational event


that is the result of the interaction between tectonic plates, in short it is mountain


building. The formation of this range differs from the Continent-Continent convergent boundaries, like the Himalayas you studied in Chapter 4. The Rocky Mountains


are the result of low-angle subduction, which caused deformation in the overlying


plate. This striking mountain range is no longer active nor growing and has since


been glaciated and eroded, which has rounded its highest peaks.


The Pacific Coast Mountains stretch


from Mexico to the Arctic Circle in Alaska.


Not only do the Pacific Coast Mountains


differ significantly from the Rocky Mountains, but the mountain ranges within the


Coastal Pacific Mountain System as also differ amongst themselves. The Sierra Nevada


Range runs 400 miles across the middle of


California and contains iconic features such


Yosemite?s Half Dome, which is a mecca for Figure 14.2 | Half Dome at Yosemite National


Park, which is part of the Sierra Nevada Range.


mountain climbers (Figure 14.2). As with the Author: Arian Zwegers


Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada Range Source: Wikimedia Commons


is the byproduct of convergence and subduc- License: CC BY 2.0


tion. During the same time as the growth of the Rocky Mountains (Late Mesozoic), the subduction led to the formation of volcanoes and the intrusion of massive


granite batholiths. The volcanoes have long since eroded away exposing the batholiths at the surface. The Sierra Nevada topography is relatively recent (within


the last 5 million years), as these rocks have been deformed by extensional stress,


creating large fault blocks that build the steep face of the range. The Cascade Range


Page | 336 Introductory Geology Physiogr aphic Provinces is the northern portion of the Pacific Coast Mountain Range that spans an area


from Northern California to Canada. The Cascade Range is the result of modern


subduction of the Juan de Fuca and Gorda Plates under the North American Plate.


Whereas the Sierra Nevada range is the eroded exposed core of a Mesozoic chain


of volcanoes, the Cascade Range is modern and active. This chain encompasses


thousands of volcanoes including well-known landmarks such as Mount Rainier


and Mount Saint Helens.


Between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Coast Mountain Range is a large


broad area containing a great diversity of geologic features. The Northernmost portion between the Cascades and the Rocky Mountains is the Columbia Plateau.


The Columbia Plateau is a large igneous province dominated by Cenozoic volcanic


rocks that are a product of the Yellowstone Hotspot. This hotspot produced several


massive, though infrequent, eruptions; the


largest eruption covering over 50,000 square


miles. The Yellowstone Hotspot is still active


and supplies the heat that feeds the classic


geysers and hot springs throughout Yellowstone National Park (Figure 14.3). Southeast


of this province is the Colorado Plateau,


which is a broad flat expanse that considering its neighboring provinces, is remarkably


Figure 14.3 | Hot Spring in Yellowstone National un-deformed. The Colorado Plateau is mostPark within the Columbia Plateau Province.


ly composed of horizontal Paleozoic and MeAuthor: User ?daveynin?


Source: Flickr


sozoic sedimentary rocks that contain abunLicense: CC BY 2.0


dant fossils, including the massive bone beds


of Dinosaur National Monument. During the Laramide Orogeny this area was dramatically uplifted, allowing rivers to erode downward thus producing immense


canyons, such as Grand Canyon National Park. The southeastern portion of the


expanse between the Mountain Ranges is called the Basin and Range Province.


This area can easily be recognized by the abundant Horsts and Grabens. Which you


may remember are series of elevated plateaus and low basins produced from the


extensional deformation of abundant paired and mirrored normal faults. There are


multiple hypotheses for the source of the extension, which range from heating from


the mantle to movement along the San Andres Fault. 14.2.2 Eastern U.S.


The physiographic provinces that occupy the eastern third of the country range


from New England to Texas, wrapping around the Gulf of Mexico. These provinces can easily be split into three regions, such as the provinces associated with the


building of the Appalachian Mountains, provinces built by much older orogenies


in the Northeast, and provinces created from more recent passive build-up of sediments along the coast. Page | 337 Introductory Geology Physiogr aphic Provinces The Appalachian Mountains are the


product of multiple collisions with small


island chains during the Paleozoic, culminating with a collision with the supercontinent of Gondwana during the formation of


Pangaea. These ancient mountains have


been significantly eroded down to rolling


hills that span most of the Southeastern


United States as seen in Great Smoky


Mountains National Park (Figure 14.4). Figure 14.4 | Appalachian Mountains within


The Appalachian Mountains can be further Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which


contains multiple physiographic provinces.


divided into four distinctive physiographic Author: Ernest Duffo


provinces based on their topography and Source: Flickr


geology. The center of the Appalachian License: CC BY 2.0


Mountains is called the Valley and Ridge Province, which is composed of highly


folded and faulted sedimentary rock. Fossils within these rocks indicate that they


are Paleozoic in age with thick and resistant Pennsylvanian-age sandstones forming its ridges while weaker Devonian and Cambrian shales forming its valleys. To


the east of the Valley and Ridge is the Blue Ridge Province, which was uplifted


along with the Valley and Ridge but is composed of much older igneous and metamorphic rock. Absolute dating of these rocks indicates that the Blue Ridge was


formed during the Proterozoic and later deformed during the Middle Paleozoic.


The topography between these two provinces differs with the more uniform rocks


in the Blue Ridge producing random peaks, valleys, and ridges as opposed to the


resistant and non-resistant rocks of the Valley and Ridge, which produce more


uniformly parallel ridges.


Southeast of the Blue Ridge is the Piedmont Province, which is typified by much


lower, rolling hills along with small isolated


mountains such as Stone Mountain in Georgia


(Figure 14.5). The Piedmont is composed of


igneous and metamorphic rock from the cores


of long eroded mountain chains ranging from


the Proterozoic to the end of the Paleozoic period. On the adjacent west side of the Valley


and Ridge province is the Appalachian Plateau,


Figure 14.5 | Stone Mountain within the Piedmont which is an uplifted and largely un-deformed




region analogous to the Colorado Plateau. The


Author: User ?kschlot1?


Source: Flickr


rocks in this province are similar in age and


License: CC BY 2.0


lithology to those in the Valley and Ridge, but


the preservation of fossils is enhanced because of the absence of extensive folding


and faulting. In addition, the Appalachian Plateau contains abundant geological


resources, including coal in West Virginia and iron in Alabama.


Page | 338 Introductory Geology Physiogr aphic Provinces The physiographic provinces in the northeastern United States are very similar to the Piedmont and Blue Ridge Provinces. The New England Province is


similar to the Piedmont in that it is composed of Late Proterozoic and Paleozoic intrusive igneous and metamorphic rocks. The major difference between these


two provinces is in their history following exposure, with the New England Province showing extensive weathering and erosion from glaciers that is absent from


its southeastern counterpart. The Adirondack Mountain Province located in


upstate New York is similar to the Blue Ridge in that they are both composed of


igneous and metamorphic rock. However, the Adirondacks are fairly unique considering that they are a circular rather than linear range of mountains. The rocks


themselves are billion year old remnants of the building of a Proterozoic supercontinent called Rodinia. The actual mountains in the range are quite young and


represent Late Cenozoic uplift, which exposed these ancient rocks.


The last eastern physiographic province is the Coastal Plain that spans a vast


area along the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico from New England to Texas. This


province is composed of the sediment that has accumulated since the rifting of


Pangaea when the eastern edge of the continent became tectonically inactive. The


sediment was derived from the continent and was deposited in shallow marine


sedimentary environments with abundant, mature sediment and marine fossils. 14.2.3 Central U.S.


The central third of the country is


mostly flat, un-deformed, and dominated by sequences of sedimentary rocks.


We separate this broad expanse into two


physiographic provinces based largely


on the source of the sediment. The Interior Lowlands Province covers the


Midwestern states and consists largely


of un-deformed Paleozoic marine rocks


(limestones and shales) that have been Figure 14.6 | Mammoth Cave National Park in


since carved and shaped by the activity of Central Kentucky.


Author: Gary Tindale


glaciers and rivers. This description may Source: Flickr


not seem as geologically exciting as those License: CC BY 2.0


to the east or west, but spectacular cave developments can occur in these marine


limestones, such as those from Mammoth Cave, Kentucky (Figure 14.6). To the


west of the Interior Lowlands Province is the Great Plains Province, which is


composed of sediments that eroded from the Rocky Mountains and are, therefore,


substantially younger (Mesozoic and Cenozoic) with a higher proportion of clastic


material. As with Interior Lowlands, the Great Plains have since been shaped by


glaciers and rivers. Page | 339 Introductory Geology Physiogr aphic Provinces 14.3 Lab Exercise




We will explore the various physiographic provinces of the United States of


America by looking closely at the National Parks that showcase iconic geologic


and topological features within each region. For each park, examine the area using


Google Earth. To get a better view of the features, making sure to zoom in and out


and also click on multiple photographs posted (make sure that photos are checked


in the layers box). More information about these and other parks can be found at


This lab is also cumulative in that you may need to review the material presented in previous chapters to answer the following questions. Part A ? National Parks


Crater Lake National Park


Crater Lake National Park (Figure


14.7) is located in southern Oregon and


was established as a National Park in


1902. The main attraction at this park is


Crater Lake, which at almost 2,000 feet is


one of the deepest lakes on Earth. Search


for 42 56 33.15N 122 06 14.89W and zoom


out to an eye altitude of 15 miles. Figure 14.7 | Crater Lake National Park,


Southern Oregon.


Author: Ray Bouknight 1. What type of volcano is Crater Lake? Source: Flickr


License: CC BY 2.0 a. Composite Volcano


b. Shield Volcano


c. Caldera


d. Cinder Cone


2. What is the origin of this volcano?


a. Subduction of an oceanic plate at a Convergent Boundary


b. Subduction of a continental plate at a Convergent Boundary


c. Development of a Hotspot


d. Continental Rifting Page | 340 Introductory Geology Physiogr aphic Provinces 3. Crater Lake National Park is located in which of the following physiographic




a. Rocky Mountains b. Sierra Nevada c. Cascades d. Columbia Plateau e. Colorado Plateau f. Basin and Range Theodore Roosevelt National Park


Theodore Roosevelt National Park (Figure 14.8) is located in North Dakota and was


established as a National Park 1978. This


park was named after Theodore Roosevelt in


honor of his conservation policies that led to


the establishment of the National Park System. Following the death of his wife, Roosevelt spent several years in the area that


would ultimately become the park, during


which time he wrote extensively about the


lonely beauty of the surrounding landscape.


Search for 46 58 52.55N 103 32 13.91W and


zoom out to an eye altitude of 30,000 feet. Figure 14.8 | Theodore Roosevelt National Park,


North Dakota.


Author: User ?stereogab?


Source: Flickr


License: CC BY-SA 2.0 4. What is the prominent drainage pattern in this park?


a. Radial b. Trellis c. Rectangular d. Dendritic 5. One of the main attractions at this park is a forest of large petrified trees. These


trees were preserved by being replaced with silica from ash layers within the


Triassic (Mesozoic) sandstones. Based on the geologic history and features of the


area, which of the following statements about these sedimentary rocks is TRUE?


a. The clastic sand that forms these rocks was weathered and eroded from the Appalachian Mountains.


b. The ash was produced from volcanoes associated with the Yellowstone Hotspot.


c. The clastic sand that forms these rocks was weathered and eroded from the Rocky




d. The clastic sand that forms these rocks was weathered and eroded from the Sierra


Nevada Mountains.


Page | 341 Introductory Geology Physiogr aphic Provinces 6. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located in which of the following


physiographic provinces?


a. Rocky Mountains b. Colorado Plateau c. Interior Lowlands d. Great Plains e. Basin and Range f. Columbia Plateau Acadia National Park Acadia National Park (Figure 14.9) is located in Southern Maine and was preserved


as a National Park in 1916. This was the first


park established east of the Mississippi River and helped Maine gain the nickname ?Vacationland?. Search for 44 21 09.94N 68 13


23.22W and zoom out to an eye altitude of


3,000 feet.


7. Based on the history of the region


containing Acadia National Park and the


color of the rocks, what type of igneous


rock occur in this area?


a. Gabbro b. Granite d. Andesite Figure 14.9 | Acadia National Park in Southern




Author: Ken Lund


Source: Flickr


License: CC BY-SA 2.0 c. Rhyolite e. Diorite 8. What type of igneous body does this structure represent?


a. Stock b. Dike c. Sill 9. Acadia National Park is located in which of the following physiographic




a. Interior Lowlands b. Adirondacks c. Great Plains d. Appalachian Plateau e. New England f. Piedmont Page | 342 Introductory Geology Physiogr aphic Provinces Congaree National Park


Congaree National Park (Figure 14.10)


is located in South Carolina and was recently established as a National Park in


2003. Unlike most National Parks, this


area was preserved for reasons other than


geology. Congaree contains the oldest


tract of old growth hardwood forest left


in the United States. This lush ecosystem


contains a diverse assemblage of animals,


fungi, and plants. Search for 33 47 57.63N


80 47 49.79W and zoom out to an eye altitude of 35,000 feet. Figure 14.10 | Congaree National Park in South




Author: Miguel Vieira


Source: Flickr


License: CC BY 2.0 10. What is the maturity of the river in this area?


a. Youthful b. Mature c. Old Age 11. Zoom out to an eye altitude of 500 miles to see the source of the sediment that


is accumulating in this area. This sediment is __________ and if lithified


would be called _________.


a. Immature, Conglomerate b. Intermediate, Sandstone c. Mature, Shale 12. Congaree National Park is located in which of the following physiographic




a. Interior Lowlands b. Blue Ridge d. Coastal Plain c. Piedmont e. New England Shenandoah National Park


Shenandoah National Park (Figure 14.11)


is located in Virginia and was established as


a National Park in 1935. This park, which is


located close to Washington, D.C., is a favorite of hikers containing 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Northern


Georgia to Maine. Search for 38 17 53.72N 78


40 26.42W and zoom out to an eye altitude of


25,000 feet. Figure 14.11 | Shenandoah National Park in




Author: Beau Considine


Source: Flickr


License: CC BY-SA 2.0 Page | 343 Introductory Geology Physiogr aphic Provinces 13. Look over the region and examine the mountains, note their shape, ground


cover, and height. Then Search for 43 48 25.03N 110 50 26.19W to examine


Grand Tetons National Park. How do the Shenandoah Mountains compare to


the Rocky Mountains?


a. The Shenandoah Mountains are shorter.


b. The Shenandoah Mountains are more rounded.


c. The Shenandoah Mountains have more vegetation.


d. All of the above.


14. Based on these observations, we can conclude that the mountains in


Shenandoah National Park have undergone _________erosion and are


_____________ the Rocky Mountains.


a. more, older than b. less, younger than c. the same amount of, the same age as 15. Shanandoah National Park is located in which of the following physiographic




a. Blue Ridge b. Piedmont c. Appalachian Plateau d. Valley and Ridge e. Adirondack Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Black Canyon of the Gunnison National


Park (Figure 14.12) is located in Western Colorado and was established as a National Park


in 1999. This park is often overshadowed by


the Grand Canyon, but is striking in its own


right. The Gunnison River has a high gradient, which has produced an incredibly steep


canyon. In fact, it is called Black Canyon not


because of the color of the rocks, but because


of the dark shadows produced by the steep


walls of the canyon. Search for 38 34 43.18N


107 43 43.74W and zoom out to an eye altitude of 30,000 feet. Page | 344 Figure 14.12 | Black Canyon of the Gunnison


National Park in Colorado.


Author: User ?daveynin?


Source: Flickr


License: CC BY 2.0 Introductory Geology Physiogr aphic Provinces 16. What type of weathering is primarily responsible for the formation of this




a. Frost wedging b. Chemical weathering c. Mechanical weathering from air d. Mechanical weathering from water 17. We can measure the rate of erosion in this canyon at about 0.01 inches/year.


Based on this rate, when did the canyon start to erode? (Hint: Measure the


difference in elevation from the bottom of the canyon at the latitude and


longitude given above and the top, measured at the road on the edge of the


canyon due south of the previous point. Then divide by the rate of erosion.


Make sure to use the correct units.)


a. 750,000 years b. 1,200,000 years c. 2,700,000 years d. 3,500,000 years 18. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is located in which of the following


physiographic provinces?


a. Blue Ridge b. Colorado Plateau c. Appalachian Plateau d. Rocky Mountains e. Basin and Range f. Columbia Plateau 14.4 Geology of Georgia


Georgia is a wonderful natural laboratory for


the study of geology. The rocks within this state


span over a billion years of history and through


this lens we can study all of the topics presented within this lab manual. Within the state we


have mountains, coastlines, folds, faults, earthquakes, fossils, a diversity of rocks, and evidence


for ancient volcanic eruptions. As would be expected with this geologic diversity, Georgia contains multiple physiographic provinces (Figure


14.13) that have been discussed above.


The northwestern portion of the state is


within the Valley and Ridge Province and shows


the characteristic sandstone ridges with folded and deformed shale within valleys. As you


might expect, the shale is relatively soft (which


is why they show more deformation) and erodes


quickly underneath the massive sandstones.


This causes the sandstones to break and tumble


Page | 345 Figure 14.13 | Physiographic provinces of




Author: USGS


Source: Wikimedia Commons


License: Public Domain Introductory Geology Physiogr aphic Provinces downhill making the Rock Cities that are


a tourist attraction surrounding Lookout


Mountain. The sands are Pennsylvanian in


age and interbedded within them are thick


coal deposits of ancient forests. These deposits were mined in the past, but for the


most part are not currently active. The


northeastern corner of the state is in the


Blue Ridge physiographic province, which


contains mountains consisting of ancient


igneous and metamorphic rock. This area of


Georgia contains large protected areas that


preserve its natural beauty (such as Chattahoochee National Forest) and contains


spectacular waterfalls as seen at Tallulah


Falls State Park (Figure 14.14).


Figure 14.14 | Tallulah Falls State Park in


The central portion of the state is within


Northern Georgia.


the Piedmont Province that consists of rollAuthor: Stanislav Vitebskiy


ing hills of igneous and metamorphic rocks


Source: Flickr


License: CC BY-ND 2.0


punctuated with large batholiths. This region has several important geologic resources. First, the granite within the Piedmont has been mined for buildings, monuments, and memorial stones. The granite


mining industry is one of the leading producers of granite within the United State,


which is centered in Elberton, Georgia. The Piedmont Provin...


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