Geology of Asheville

Asheville, the largest city in western North Carolina, has a long and diverse geologic history.  The city is in the widest part of the Blue Ridge geologic province of the southern Appalachian Mountains.  This province, composed of multiple terranes, includes Mesoproterozoic gneisses, Neoproterozoic to Paleozoic volcanic and sedimentary assemblages, and Paleozoic plutons.  These rocks were variably metamorphosed and deformed by three distinct Paleozoic orogenic events.  The final orogeny culminated with the creation of Pangea and continental collision that transported terranes hundreds of kilometers to the west, creating a large complex of stacked thrust sheets.

 

A result of this diverse geologic history is the varied and numerous mineral resources found in western North Carolina.  These include mica, feldspar, quartz, corundum, copper, gold, talc, marble, and olivine.  Mining has helped shape western North Carolina and the region currently leads the nation in the production of feldspar, mica, and high purity quartz.

 

The Mesozoic breakup of Pangea and uplift during the Cenozoic may have helped create prominent N-S and E-W trending lineaments that define the drainage channels and topographic basin structure that make Asheville a natural transportation corridor and ideal place to inhabit. Local relief can be as much as 4000 feet and Mount Mitchell, less than an hour drive from Asheville, is the highest elevation east of the Mississippi river at 6,684 feet. Although the exact mechanism is debated, most geoscientists agree that the current topographic expression of the mountains is the result of Cenozoic rejuvenation of the landscape.

 

Although beautiful, Asheville and its surrounding mountains have their share of geologic hazards.  These include damaging landslide events, flooding, and minor earthquake activity.  

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