Understanding the Geology of Tennessee

There are many things to enjoy about a visit to Tennessee and people who live in the area would do well to understand more about the state where they reside. There are many things to learn about the state, including the history and culture that makes it unique. Something else that you may appreciate learning about the state is about the geology. You might be surprised with exactly how much diversity is located within the state boundaries.

Most people tend to split the area of Tennessee in the three major parts, the Western, Eastern, and Middle. When it comes to the types of geology that is available in the terms of landforms, there are also three major areas as well. Those areas include the highlands and basins, the River Valley plain and the mountains.

Much of the area across middle Tennessee was deposited approximately 300 to 400 million years ago. It includes deep ocean limestone along with shale layers as well. When the Appalachian Mountains formed in the area millions of years ago, they were fairly tall peaks. As they began to wear away due to erosion and other factors, it left shore and beach sediments, including sandstone.

The Mesozoic sediments are located in the area of Western Tennessee, typically along the Tennessee River. There were many different sea creatures located in the area and the remains of those creatures can be located today. Those include the mosasaurs and plesiosaurs. The entire area was covered by ocean and was underwater, which is why the fossil record does not show any land dinosaurs. During that time, the Appalachian Mountains that were located to the east continued to erode until they were near their current elevation.

The sea level had dropped by the Cenozoic era and the continent of North America had dried off. Rivers had formed, including the Cumberland, Mississippi and Tennessee rivers. You might be surprised to learn that the area of Nashville, which is sometimes referred to as the Nashville basin, is actually a geologic dome.

Of course, this is really only scratching the surface of some of the fantastic things you can learn about the area of Tennessee through geology. What is interesting to know is the fact that the beauty of the state in its present form was not seen millions of years ago. That doesn’t mean, however, that it didn’t have a beauty all of its own.