Cloudland Canyon State Park is located on Lookout Mountain in the Cumberland Plateau region of Georgia. The rugged canyon and waterfalls fall over 800 feet to the floor of Lookout Valley. These rocks were laid down in open sea and coastal environments during the late Paleozoic Era and were altered by deformation and erosion. Because these rocks were laid down at an ancient shoreline, knowledge of the geologic processes at modern coastlines is the key to identifying the rocks and layers at Cloudland Canyon (uniformitarianism). Cloudland Canyon is also an excellent place to study superposition as you can identify the order of events that took place to create the canyon (deposition of sediment, deformation, and cutting) and a walk to the canyon floor is a descent through millions of years.
exposed rocks of Cloudland Canyon represent the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian
Periods and are grouped together as Carboniferous. When this terrain was formed, much of what is now the
southeastern US was covered with a shallow inland sea.
The nature of the bedding suggests deposition in a delta environment and
observation of many rocks revel ripple marks.
The basin that ran along the young Appalachians was filled with limestone
then eroded sediments which eventually formed the Carboniferous rocks of this
region. The calcium carbonate
remains of the abundant sea life produced the Mississippian limestone.
Eventually, land plants in the swampy region provided the vegetation that
would produce coal deposits. This
is similar to the processes that are currently occurring in the Mississippi
the late Paleozoic, this area was deformed by lateral pressure from the east
which folded the rocks into anticlines and synclines and broke them into a
system of vertical fractures. You
can see that the sandstone has been broken into many joint sets.
Because running water seeks the course of least resistance, these joints
have determined the course of streams that formed the canyon.
During the folding, more fractures formed in the anticlines than the
synclines, so the anticlines eroded faster and formed the valleys, while the
synclines formed the steep sided mountains.
you look at the canyon walls, you notice areas covered with vegetation and sheer
rock walls. The sandstone layers
are free of vegetation, while the shale layers have more a more gentle slope and
fertile soil that supports pine trees and other vegetation.
In the canyon walls there are also numerous bowl shaped depressions.
These are wet weather waterfalls fed by groundwater and the sediment
filled water at the base of the falls has carved these bowls into the sandstone
and shale. Looking at the canyon
walls also offers views of how the sediment was laid.