What is Roadside Geology?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

People may use the term “roadside geology” to refer generally to amateur geology and rockhounding, or to a specific series of books which has been published in the United States since 1972. The Roadside Geology/Geology Underfoot series published by the Mountain Press Publishing Company has remained perennially popular with people who are interested in geology, ranging from professional geologists who want a little bit of geological background on an area they are visiting to tourists who simply want to learn more about the geologic history of the areas they travel through.

Bookstores can be a great resource for information about local roadside geology.
Bookstores can be a great resource for information about local roadside geology.

As an amateur pursuit, roadside geology can be quite interesting. A number of roads cut right through geologic formations, allowing people to see geological history in graphic cross section right next to the road without even stopping the car, and for people who do stop the car to stretch their legs, the roadside can be rich with topics of geological interest. Long road trips can also give people an opportunity to trace the geologic history of an area of the world, looking for specific geological transitions which can provide hints into events which happened thousands or millions of years ago.

Geology Underfoot books can direct amateur geologists to sites where people can hike to explore geology.
Geology Underfoot books can direct amateur geologists to sites where people can hike to explore geology.

The popular book series covers much of the United States, with new books constantly being released. Each book includes a basic overview of the geologic history of a particular area, with chapters discussing specific regions of interest. The Roadside Geology books suggest travel routes for people who are interested in looking at specific formations, covers landmarks which may be of interest, and offers general geology education to people at all levels. The accompanying Geology Underfoot books have information about specific sites which people can hike or walk through to explore geology.

For a budding geologist, roadside geology can be an excellent educational opportunity. A road trip can be turned into an educational adventure with the assistance of geology guides such as the Roadside Geology books, and the young geologist might collect samples, take photographs, make sketches, and engage in other educational activities. Roadside geology can be used for extra credit work in school, as part of a homeschooling or independent study program, or as a simple method of entertainment.

Many bookstores in the United States carry Roadside Geology books which cover their regions, and they may have additional books in their travel sections. Bookstores can also order books for customers by request, and people can also order them through online outlets which carry the Roadside Geology/Geology Underfoot series.

Roadside geology can be a great educational opportunity for a budding geologist.
Roadside geology can be a great educational opportunity for a budding geologist.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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