GEO ExPro

Geological Tours of North America’s Wonders

These geologically oriented tours of some of North America’s most iconic landscapes will certainly satisfy the most ardent geoscientist as well as the curious layman in Gary L. Prost's Geological Tours of The World: North America's Natural Wonders (Two Volume Set), published by CRC Press in 2020.
This article appeared in Vol. 17, No. 5 - 2020

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Geological Tours of North America’s Wonders

Geologic Tours of the World: North America’s Natural Wonders (Two- Volume Set) By Gary L. Prost, CRC Press 2020 Detailed, yet nontechnical, these geologically oriented tours of some of North America’s most iconic landscapes will certainly satisfy the most ardent geoscientist as well as the curious layman.

When I first received these two volumes and looked them over, I was delighted to see that I have taken many of the tours represented here, as well as having written about some of the places for GEO ExPro. Thus, being very familiar with a lot of the material led me to the belief that this would be a good review of things I already knew. Boy, was I wrong! These volumes are filled with photos, maps, geology, history, and details that would take considerable time and effort to track down for just one small area. Gary has done that for us across some of the most interesting and exposed geological features in North America.

An Example Transect

Tour 3, for example, will take us from Denver, Colorado to Grand Junction, Colorado. Gary starts out with an overview of the entire transect giving the reader, hopefully on a well-deserved break from work, an opportunity to see this great country and what to expect along the way. An itinerary from beginning to end including stops and the Mine’s incredible Geology Museum. Leaving Golden on I-70, we take a 17 minute (11.8 km) side trip along the Dakota Hogback to Red Rocks Park. Photos and cross-sections through the Rocky Mountain front help explain the type of forces that formed this range (Laramide-style deformation) as compared to some other areas he covered across Idaho, Wyoming and the Canadian Rockies (Sevier-style deformation). This is all explained in a manner that just about anyone with a curious mind can understand.

  • Gary Prost in the Canadian Rockies. © Gary Prost.

One of the highlights of these books has to be the way Gary has used excellent photos along with cross-sections and very understandable explanations of just what is happening geologically. Several good examples can be found along this first side trip to Red Rocks Park. One is a photo of the Great Unconformity where a plaque marks a place where you can reach across a time gap of 1.4 billion years. From the image of dinosaur tracks at Dinosaur Ridge to the photo of the famous I-70 road cut through the Dakota Hogback, all are brilliantly illustrated and explained in the text. Thus far the route has taken us to Stop 4 of a transect through mining towns, across the Continental Divide, to hot springs and finally ending up at the Book Cliffs near Grand Junction after another 19 stops and a number of side trips. I have driven this same route several times; my next will be with this remarkable book at my side.

Content

The book comprises two volumes. Volume 1 covers the Canadian Rockies, California, the Southwest, Great Basin, and Tetons-Yellowstone Country. Trips include iconic stops in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada; the California wine country and gold fields; the Grand Canyon of Arizona; Zion, Bryce, Arches, and Canyonlands of Utah; the impressive Grand Tetons of Wyoming and the geysers and hot springs in Yellowstone National Park.

Volume 2 covers the Appalachians, Colorado Rockies, Austin-Big Bend Country and the Sierra Madre in northern Mexico. Trips detail the Central Appalachians in Virginia and West Virginia, Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, Big Bend in West Texas, Garden of the Gods, Aspen and the Maroon Bells in Colorado, and the giant salt-cored uplifts of the La Popa Basin of Mexico. 

Along with all the iconic areas detailed above, an impressive number of lesser-known but very interesting geological features, history, and other titbits will surely keep us all entertained. A map at the beginning of both volumes shows where each transect is located and labels each as to the volume and transect number. All this makes it easy to plan your next road trip. Each transect is followed by reference and further reading material which I suggest could be organised as to subject or area.

The Author

Gary L. Prost received his PhD in geology from Colorado School of Mines in 1986. Over his 45 years of experience he has worked in mineral and petroleum exploration for an array of companies and in a wide range of disciplines including field mapping, remote sensing and structural analysis. He has previously published three books and is currently working on his next volume, Geologic Tours of the World-South: America’s Natural Wonders. 

I had the pleasure of talking with Gary about his motivation to publish these two volumes, which he spent the past three years researching as well as driving each transect. One of his personal interests is learning how geology has influenced our history, including battles during the Civil War, its impact on pioneers heading west, and the path of the transcontinental railroad. 

“These volumes represent a culmination of a lifetime of experience working with and traveling across the geology of North America,” says Gary. “It is my hope that a fuller understanding of the geology of these areas will enhance the traveller’s experience beyond simple sightseeing.” I know my future travels along these routes most certainly will be.

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