The Grand Canyon Of The East
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The Grand Canyon Of The East
Welcome to Diamond Point Overlook. Quite possibly one of the most hidden, breath taking areas in one of the most frequented West Virginia tourist locations. Diamond Point is part of the Endless Wall Trail at the New River Gorge National River. A 1.07 mile hike along a beautiful, well marked trail will take you to this overlook where you will have a unique perspective of what took many years to create.
The New River Gorge cuts through the Appalachian Plateau, and exposes 3200 feet of very old rocks. Most of the rocks that you can see exposed in the gorge are sandstone and shale. Because the New River existed before the Appalachian Mountains, it was able to cut into them as fast as they were uplifted.
The New River is the only river that cuts through the ridge and valley province of the Appalachian Mountains instead of draining from or around them. This simple fact is what helped carve this magnificent gorge by the erosional forces of the New River. In short, the river pushes its load of sand and other particles over the bedrock of the river channel and wears it down in a sandpapering action.
An interesting fact of the erosional force of the New River is that it sliced through the coal bearing rocks and exposed them making the mining of the coal relatively easy. Some of the coal found in the New River Gorge is considered globally significant because of its exceptional quality and purity.
The rock sequences in the Gorge contain seven formations which can be lumped together into two major groups; the four oldest being of Mississippian age (the Mauch Chunk Group). The formations in this group are the Bluestone Formation which consists of shale and siltstone with lesser sandstone and limestone. Its maximum thickness is 650 feet. The Princeton Formation is a distinctive 60-foot thick coarse conglomerate that grades into a sandstone. The Hinton Formation consists of marine and freshwater shales and siltstones with lesser amounts of sandstone and limestone and it's maximum thickness is 1,100 feet in Gorge. Finally is the Bluefield Formation which consists mostly of marine calcareous shales with minor limestone, siltstone, and sandstone. Its maximum thickness is 25 feet in the Gorge.
The three youngest of Pennsylvanian age (the Pottsville Group) will now be listed. This group consists of the Kanawha Formation, which consists of 900 feet of shale and siltstone with lesser amounts of sandstone. The New River Formation consists of coal-bearing sandstones, siltstones, and shales. It contains Fire Creek, Beckley, and Sewell coal seams and Nuttall sandstone at top. Maximum thickness of this formation is 900 feet. The Pocahontas Formation consists of coal-bearing sandstone with lesser amounts of siltstone and shale. It has a maximum thickness of 400 feet. This younger Pennsylvanian Group is distinctive because it is the oldest one containing commercial coal beds in West Virginia.
The rocks were originally deposited horizontally as sediments in water bodies and swamps, but today they dip to the northwest at about 60 feet per mile due to subsequent tilting by mountain-building forces that affected all the Appalachians. The geologist can measure the true thickness of each layer, and by adding them together can obtain a total thickness of about 4,000 feet. This is not to be confused with the maximum depth of the Gorge, which is about 1,600 feet. The rock sequence is much thicker because the layers are tilted.
In order to claim this earthcache, please send me an email with the answers to the following questions:
1. What is the name of the only river to cut through the Appalachian Plateau?
2. In what direction does this river flow?
3. Explain how the gorge was/is being formed.
4. What industry was greatly influenced by the forming of this gorge?
5. What is the approximate length of the gorge?
6. According to the diagram, what formation are you standing on?
7. How many vertical boards make up the walkway of the Fern Creek bridge?
PLEASE USE CAUTION WHEN ACCESSING THIS OVERLOOK. MANY SHEER CLIFFS ARE PRESENT WHICH MAY BE AWESOME FOR ROCK CLIMBERS BUT DEADLY TO GEOCACHERS! I have added a star for the terrain to account for these cliffs.
A very special thanks goes to the National Park Service for their cooperation in allowing this Earth Cache to be placed inside the Park boundaries!
WV Geological Survey 1
WV Geological Survey 2
National Park Service 1
National Park Service 2
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Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum