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8 US Geological Sites You’ve Never Heard of

What are some of the most remarkable US geological sites?

Our country is a land of spectacular natural wonders, boasting an impressive array of geological formations that have captured the attention of people around the world. From majestic canyons and surreal rock formations to towering cliffs and volcanic landscapes, the US is home to numerous iconic geological sites.

These spellbinding formations showcase the immense beauty and power of Earth’s geological processes, offering a glimpse into the planet’s ancient past. In this list of the most spectacular US geological sites, we’ll explore some of the most awe-inspiring landmarks that have become symbols of our country’s natural heritage.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

US geological sites
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1. Grand Canyon (Arizona)

The Grand Canyon in Arizona is without a doubt one of the best US geological sites. Carved by the mighty Colorado River over millions of years, this steep-sided canyon stretches about 270 miles (440 kilometers) in length, up to 17 miles (29 kilometers) in width, and reaches depths of more than a mile (1.6 kilometers).

Its stunning geological features and immense size have rightfully earned it the title of one of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders. The exposed rock layers of the Grand Canyon offer a sensational glimpse into Earth’s geologic history, with rocks dating back tens of millions of years.

The diverse and colorful rock formations, including the whites of the Kaibab Limestone, the browns of the Hermit Shale, and the reds of the Supar Group, create a truly breathtaking tapestry of colors.

2. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho)

Next on our list of the most remarkable US geological sites is Yellowstone National Park. The area, which spans the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, isn’t only popular for its pristine landscapes and diverse wildlife but also for its spectacular geologic formations.

Established as the first national park in the US and widely considered the first national park in the whole world, Yellowstone is a geological wonderland that draws millions of visitors yearly with its unique features.

One of the park’s most famous geologic formations is the Yellowstone Caldera, frequently referred to as a supervolcano. This massive vent in the Earth’s crust is responsible for shaping the park’s landscape over million of years. Moreover, the Yellowstone Caldera is an active geothermal hotspot, as evidenced by the multiple hot springs, geysers, and mud pots scattered throughout the park.

This is definitely one of the most spectacular US geological sites, so make sure you visit it if you have the chance.

3. Lava Beds National Monument (California)

No. 3 on our list of the most remarkable US geological sites is the Lava Beds National Monuments in north-east California. The area is located at the northeast edge of Medicine Lake Volcano, includes more than 46,000 acres, and is the largest volcano in the Cascade region.

Lava Beds National Monument boasts numerous lava tubes, 25 of which have established public access and marked entrances and exploration trails. The area also provides paths through the volcanic zones and through the xeric deserts landscape of the high Great Basin.

Lava Beds National Monument is one of the most spectacular US geological sites because of its wide variety of volcanic formations, including cinder cones, lava tubes, spatter cones, fumaroles, maars, hornitos, lava flows, and volcanic fields.

mammoth cave
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4. Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)

Next on our list of iconic US geological sites is Mammoth Cave National Park, located in central Kentucky. It’s the world’s longest known cave system, and its official name has been the Mammoth-Flint Ridge Cave System since the 1972 merger of the national park with the even longer system under Flint Ridge to the north.

The area was established in 1941 as a national park, in 1981 as a World Heritage Site, and in 1990 as an international biosphere reserve. Mammoth Cave National Park stretches over 52,000 acres and is mainly located in Edmonson County, with small portions spreading eastward to the counties of Barren and Hart.

The national park features over 400 miles (640 kilometers) of surveyed caves, which is almost twice as long as the Sac Actun underwater cave, Mexico’s second-longest cave system.

5. San Andreas Fault at the Carrizo Plain (California)

The Carrizo Plain is a large enclosed grassland plain, around 50 miles wide and up to 15 miles across. It extends northwest from the town of Maricopa, following the San Andreas Fault, and includes the Carrizo Plain National Monument, which covers about 240,000 acres.

This is one of the most spectacular US geological sites and includes Painted Rock, located in the Carrizo Plain Rock Art Discontiguous District. Bordering the plain to the northeast is the stunning Temblor Range, and bordering the plain to the southwest is the Caliente Range.

Soda Lake, a 3,000-acre alkaline lake, is in the center of the Carrizo Plain, with the popular Painted Rock containing Yokut and Chumash rock art nearby.

Keep reading to discover other spectacular US geological sites!

6. Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument (Washington)

Next on our list of remarkable US geological sites is the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, which is the first such monument operated by the US. Since 1983, several viewpoints, trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, and information stations have been set up to accommodate the increasing number of tourists every year.

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument covers an area of about 110,000 acres, and after the eruption of 1980, it has been set aside for tourism, education, and science. Moreover, the ecosystem within the area is left to respond to the disturbance naturally.

Mountain climbing to the peak of the volcano has been allowed since 1986.

meteor crater
Photo by Nikolas_jkd from Shutterstock

7. Meteor Crater (Arizona)

Next on our list of spectacular US geological sites is Arizona’s meteor crater, which was created around 50,000 years ago during the Pleistocene era, when the climate in the area was much damper and cooler. Back then, the Colorado Plateau was an open grassland dotted with woodland inhabited by giant ground sloths and mammoths.

Meteo Crater is around 37 miles (60 kilometers) east of Flagstaff and about 18 miles (29 kilometers) west of Winslow in the northern Airzona desert. Since the national Geographic Names Board usually honors names of natural features originating from the post office that’s within the shortest distance, the feature got the name “Meteor Crater” from the local post office called Meteor.

Also known as the Canyon Diablo Crater, it’s thought to have been created by a meteorite impact. According to scientists, this is the world’s best-preserved meteorite crater. It’s about 3,900 feet in diameter, about 560 feet deep, and is surrounded by an approximately 148-foot rim above the surrounding plains.

8. La Brea Tar Pits (California)

Last but not least on our list of iconic US geological sites is La Brea Tar Pits, which is a group of tar pits around which Hancock Park was developed and built in the Los Angeles urban area. What’s unique about this place is the natural asphalt (also called pitch, bitumen, or tar-brea in Spanish) that has sprung up from the ground for tens of thousands of years.

Often the tar is coated with water, leaves, or dirt. Moreover, the tar has preserved the bones of trapped animals for years. The George C. Page Museum is the one devoted to exploring the tar pits and exhibiting the remains of the animals that died there.

Tar pits are composed of heavy oil fractions that seep from the earth as oil. These fractions are called gilsonite, and they reach the surfaces, forming pools at several locations in the park. The lighter fractions of petroleum evaporate or biodegrade.

Here’s a TV series you may be interested in if you want to learn more about geological sites.

If you liked our article on remarkable US geological sites, you may also want to read Wow! These 5 New Animal Species Were Discovered in 2023.


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