2003 Seattle Annual Meeting (November 2–5, 2003)
Paper No. 207-10
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM-10:45 AM

LOCAL GEOLOGY AND ITS INFLUENCE ON HUMAN HISTORY IN THE WEST POINT REGION

JOHNSON, Marie C., Geography and Environmental Engineering, U. S. Military Academy, West Point, NY 10996, marie-johnson@usma.edu.

Linking local geology to local human development is an attractive way to interest non-geology majors in geology. West Point is ideally located as it is at the intersection of three distinct geologic regions, and each region has uniquely influenced human settlement of this area. Metamorphic gneiss dominates the bedrock in the Hudson Highlands, and records the continental collision and mountain building of Grenville Time. This collision was followed by the opening and reclosing of the proto-Atlantic Ocean. Paleozoic sedimentary rocks laid down in this ocean are preserved in the bedrock of the Great Valley west of West Point. The Great Valley is bordered on the west by the Shawangunk Ridge conglomerates. Final touches to the regional topography were carved by Pleistocene glaciers which buried West Point under nearly a mile of ice about a million years ago. The rugged topography of the Hudson Highlands kept these lands fairly isolated. This isolation changed with the discovery of economically significant iron ore deposits. These ore deposits were actively mined and became a major source of iron ore for both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. In contrast, the flat topography of the Great Valley resulted in the creation of swampy backwater lands as the glaciers retreated at the conclusion of the last Ice Age. Locals referred to these lands as the “drowned lands” and resisted settling there until the 1870s. The first settlers were ultimately rewarded, however, by uncovering some of the richest farmland in New York State. In the exposed Paleozoic rocks between the Hudson Highlands and the Great Valley, natural cement was discovered in 1825. This cement expedited the building of the Delaware and Hudson Canal which served as a major link between the Pennsylvania anthracite coal fields and east coast factories. These relationships are highlighted during a day long field trip to all three physiographic provinces. This field trip is preceded by an in-class exercise which prepares students for the field trip by having them study relevant topographic maps and read applicable websites to create hypotheses about what they will see in the field. Encouraging students to identify how the geologic history of a region has shaped job opportunities and regional settlement patterns promotes an appreciation for how geology affects us all.

2003 Seattle Annual Meeting (November 2–5, 2003)
Session No. 207
Teaching Local Geology: An NAGT Session In Honor of Robert Christman
Washington State Convention and Trade Center: 2A
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 35, No. 6, September 2003, p. 524

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