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Research Areas > Great Smokys > Cades Cove

Geologic Investigations of Cades Cove


     James M. Safford (1856) was the first to study the geology of this region.  From 1889 to 1891, Arthur Keith (1895) made the first geologic map using the first detailed topographic map.   Keith (1895) correctly showed the distribution of major rock types, regardless of the fact that he was on horseback and there was a limited understanding of the complex regional geology.  Although he accurately showed "Wilhite slate" above "Knox dolomite" in Cades Cove, it was 25 years before the contact was recognized as a "great overthrust fault" (Gordon, 1920) that was named "the Great Smoky Overthrust" (Keith, 1927).  Charles W. Wilson, Jr., (1934), visited in 1933 to "study the thrust plane", and in 1941 and 1946, Robert B. Neuman (1947) mapped the bedrock and collected fossils.  Neuman returned to the area in 1949 as part of the USGS field party led by Philip B. King.   Neuman was joined by Willis H. Nelson in 1951 and worked around Cades Cove until December 1953 (Neuman, 1951: Neuman and Nelson, 1965); their report and 1:62,500-scale geologic map are in libraries but are out of print.  Since then only topical studies have been conducted in Cades Cove.   Davidson (1983) studied the Pleistocene history of a small lake, Orndorff and others (1988) sampled the Jonesboro Limestone for conodonts to evaluate the potential of hydrocarbons to the east, and Walters (1998) studied structure and stratigraphy along a transect across the area.


     This study was done in 1997 as part of a larger project to investigate the geology of GSMNP, a Department of Interior cooperative investigation by U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service, the Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the Nature Conservancy.  A GIS is being developed using bedrock and surficial geologic units, soils, and flora and fauna of the ATBI to better understand and manage park resources.


first geologic map
1st geologic map

First topographic map
1st topographic map

1947 Map Crew
USGS field party

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