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Lookout Mountain
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Lookout Mountain is part of the Cumberland Plateau – doesn’t that seem strange?  The Cumberland Plateau runs from Birmingham, Alabama, through northwest Georgia and into Tennessee and parts of it are highly eroded forming the Cumberland Mountains, which are geologically still a plateau.  These flat-topped mountains are quite different from what you would find in the Appalachians to the east.  The Cumberland Plateau is in the transition area between the sedimentary areas of central Tennessee and the metamorphic folded and faulted ridges further east in Georgia. 

One of the principal features of the Cumberland Plateau in Georgia is Lookout Mountain.  It is in the southernmost reaches of the Cumberland Plateau which parallels the Blue Ridge Mountains to its west.  Lookout Mountain extends 84 miles through three states and is one of the world’s riches cave regions.  This mountain is made up of Paleozoic sedimentary rock with a gentle syncline structure.  The valleys in this area show an anticline structure indicating that the valley strata was folded upward during the collision that assembled Pangea.  Water penetrated the cracks in these folds and after 300 million years of erosion the former ridges were left as valleys and Lookout Mountain was left intact. 

At the Reflection Riding Nature Preserve at the base of Lookout Mountain, there are deep gorges, rock fields, and moss-covered boulders to explore.  On the north end of Lookout Mountain there is also a fossil collecting site.  In this area you will find Pennsylvanian plant fossils including Sigillaria, Pecopteris, Alethopteris, Neuropteris, and others.  Just before the brow of the mountain, there is a visible seam of coal underneath massive sandstone and shale.  During the Carboniferous period, huge ferns and other plants lived in the swamps and river deltas of the Northern Hemisphere.  As they died, the swamp water prevented them from losing their carbon and after eons, these carbonized remains were compressed into layers of coal.

Three other areas of Lookout Mountain that we will visit are Rock City, Ruby Falls, and Cloudland Canyon.