trail geology.

the appalachians! huh??


​AUGUST 10, 2006

I submitted a question to Pete Conroy at the Environmental Policy and Information Center at Jacksonville State University about whether the Pinhoti is actually in the Appalachians. This page is a compilation of two email responses provided by Dr. Kelly Gregg, Geology Department Head at JSU:

It is perfectly accurate to say that the Pinhoti runs through the Appalachians. Admittedly, the Trail is contained in the "Piedmont Physiographic Region", but this is just a sub-region of the Appalachian Highlands.

If someone wanted to get real specific, I think it actually runs through the "Talladega Slate Belt" and the "Hillabee Greenstone Region" - two sub-sub-regions. If you wanted to avoid people fussing over minor aspects of terminology, you could avoid the phrase "Appalachian Mountains" and substitute "Appalachian Highlands" or just the "Appalachians".

However, the vast majority of people in the field would have no problem with the phrase "Appalachian Mountains" - they are certainly in the Appalachians and they are certainly mountains.

The whole matter of the Appalachians is certainly confusing. I think that the muddle is a result of very complicated geology plus the variety of ways that the term "Appalachians" has been used over the last few centuries.

Geologically speaking, the Appalachians are the mountains initiated by the Appalachian Orogeny (mountain-building) that finished up at the end of the Paleozoic. These Appalachians extended almost all the way down to Montgomery, Alabama. They consist of four major sub-regions: the Piedmont, the Blue Ridge, the Ridge and Valley, and the Appalachian Plateau. These four are found in roughly parallel bands running NE/SW.

The Pinhoti is found in the Piedmont sub-region, and (to a level of detail that I suspect no one really cares about) in the Hillabee Greenstone and Talladega Slate Belt sub-sub-regions. The Piedmont consists of a complex assortment of metamorphic and igneous rocks that have been strongly deformed.

Geology aside, I think in common usage of the term "Appalachians" is more restricted to the mountains running from North Georgia to way up north somewhere. Purely speculative, I suspect that part of the reason for this has to do with the Appalachian relief programs initiated by the Federal Government back in the '30s. For political reasons - nothing to do with geology or topography at all - they chopped off the Appalachians right on the Georgia/Alabama line. You can still find maps in textbooks showing this strange, straight-line boundary of the Appalachians.

Another reason probably has to do with the Appalachian Trail. Since the Trail starts in North Georgia, most people naturally assume that's where the mountains start too. I don't know why the Trail didn't originally begin in Alabama - probably a lack of local interest at the time.

Anyway, in terms of Geology, the Pinhoti definitely is found in the Appalachians.


^ climb up.



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