Taughannock State Park geology tour

Trumansburg, NY, United States
Est. 1.8km / 50 mins / Map

Taughannock State Park geology tour - Cya On The Road

Taughannock State Park is famously home to the highest free-falling waterfall east of the Mississippi River, which occurs within a spectacular gorge cut through ancient marine rocks. The rocks and landforms of the Park tell a story of 400 million years of geologic change. Before you begin your tour, it may help to briefly summarize the story of the rocks and landforms you’ll see.While the rocks of Taughannock were being deposited hundreds of millions of years ago, North America was south of the Equator. Through a process known as plate tectonics, a mountain range the size of the Himalayas was being pushed up, due to collisions with Europe and northern Africa, along what is now the east coast of the US. West of those mountains, a shallow sea covered much of Upstate New York and areas south.  Sand and mud eroded from those mountains settled at the bottom of this sea, where countless marine organisms lived, some of which left their fossil shells behind in the soft sediment. That time is known as the Age of Fishes, or, more technically, the Devonian Period.Eventually, those layers of marine sediment we see at Taughannock would be deeply buried by other layers, where they became compacted rock. One hundred million years later, another mountain building event and other forces would create numerous vertical cracks in those deeply buried layers. Meanwhile, at the surface, dinosaurs appeared, thrived, and went extinct, though their remains were for the most part not preserved in New York State.Recently by geology standards, the layers were uplifted and weathered away, so that the ancient rocks from the Age of Fishes can be seen again at the surface. Those rocks were covered by glaciers that flowed over the area and melted back again several times, gouging out deep valleys that became the Finger Lakes. Streams flowing from high elevations into the lake valleys formed waterfalls, which weathered back into the hills, forming gorges, especially toward the southern ends of Cayuga and Seneca Lakes. This tour takes you to one of the most remarkable of those many gorges, at Taughannock State Park.  

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