Famous American Rocks
Stone Mountain, Georgia. Stone Mountain is one of many nubbles that breaks out of the vast piedmont surrounding Atlanta. It is the center of a large tourist attraction which includes the stone carving of prominent Confederate soldiers, the skyride tram, scenic railroad, and a collection of parks. Stone Mountain has a maximum elevation of 1,686 feet above sea level and rises over 800 feet above the surroundings. It is composed of granitic subtypes mostly quartz monzonite and is considered a classic monadnock, a granite peak that rises in isolation. Numerous hiking trails reach the broad summit but parking can be expensive.
Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. Famous among rock climbers and tourists alike, Seneca Rocks form a picket line against the skyline. Formed out of Tuscarora quartzite, the rocks are best viewed from Route 28 and are part of the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks national Recreation Area of Monongahela National Forest. The rocks date to the Silurian period 440 million years ago.
Elephant Rocks, Missouri. A series of jumbled boulders in southeast Missouri are actually the basement rocks of an ancient mountain range. Located in the Saint FrancoisMountains of Missouri, the Elephant Rocks are a part of the state park of the same name which preserves the area. The rock type is Precambrian granite that is 1.5 billion years old. Hiking trails make the rocks easily accessible. The rocks are at an elevation of about 1,600 feet above sea level.
Chimney Rock, Nebraska. A National Historic Site, Chimney Rock gained early fame in the manifest destiny of the United States as it served as a prominent beacon for pioneers headed west along the Oregon Trail. It rises spire-like almost 300 feet above the plains and North Platte River and has a maximum elevation of 4,226 feet above sea level. It is closely accessed by Route 92 in western Nebraska.
Courthouse and Jail Rocks, Nebraska. Not to be outdone by Chimney Rock only fifteen miles to the west, Courthouse and Jail Rocks rise 400 feet above the surrounding plains and their sheer bulk is in contrast to the needle-like spire of Chimney Rock. In fact all of these formations consist of sandstone, clay, and volcanic ash and all served as convenient beacons along the pioneer trails (Oregon-California, Mormon, and Pony Express) that cut through the Platte River Valley. These rocks can be easily visited in one day and are among the most notable geologic features in the state.
Castle Rock and Monument Rocks, Kansas. Much of the Great Plains consists of soft sedimentary rocks that are easily eroded. The Great Plains have a number of prominent rocks that were formed as the surrounding rock was eroded by wind and water leaving residual, more weather-resistant, rocks in place. The most famous rocks in Kansas are located in the western half of the state. Monument rocks stands out against an otherwise flat plain and served as a beacon for early emigrants. Nearby Castle Rock, 70 feet high, is another fine example of residual sediments. Monument Rocks are a chalk formation about 80 million years old and rise 70 feet from a base elevation of about 3,000 feet above sea level.
Enchanted Rock, Texas. Located in central Texas’ Hill Country Enchanted Rock rises to a maximum elevation of 1,825 feet above sea level and has about 425 feet of vertical relief. It is the centerpiece of Enchanted Rock State Natural Area which preserves the uniqueness of this plutonic formation. The rock is easily reached by a hiking trail to the summit. The rock type is an exfoliated pink granite.
Independence Rock, Wyoming. Similar to Enchanted Rock in Texas, Independence Rock, in central Wyoming, is an exfoliated granite formation that was easily recognized by early pioneers who used it as a landmark during their westward emigration. Vintage nineteenth century graffiti can still be still on its walls. It rises approximately 130 feet above the surrounding plains and is part of the Independence Rock State Historic Site.
Devils Tower, Wyoming. Devil’s Tower’s fame exploded in popular culture when Steven Spielberg used it as the backdrop for his scenes in the movie Close Encounters in 1977. But it was well known long before the movie and it is in fact the country’s first national monument having been established in 1906 by President Teddy Roosevelt. Both a rock climbing mecca and a huge tourist attraction, Devils Tower rises in a series of vertical, or columnar, joints 1,267 feet above the rolling, forested plains. The geology of the rock is that of an igneous intrusion surrounded by sedimentary rocks. The summit elevation of the tower is 5,112 feet above sea level. Devils Tower National Monument sees about 400,000 annual visitors and is located in northeast Wyoming in the Black Hills region. Both Mount Rushmore and DevilsTower can easily be seen in the same day.
Morro Rock, California. The only monolith that rises from the sea among the selections, Morro Rock is a volcanic plug that reaches 581 feet above the Pacific Ocean on the central California coast. It was sighted by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542 who called it “El Morro”. The rock is encapsulated in the Morro Rock State Preserve. Climbing is forbidden and there are sensitive gull nesting habitats on the rock that are off limits as well. You can drive to the base of the rock via the causeway from the town of Morro Bay, which affords great views of the rock.
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