Death Valley National Monument

Geological Story

An investigation of the geology of Death Valley by the United States Geological Survey is now in progress, and the following information about this picturesque region was furnished by L. F. Noble, who is carrying out the work for the Government.

The Death Valley region contains rocks of all the great divisions of geologic time but earth movements in the area have been so profound and so recurrent that the rock masses form a complex mosaic of crystal blocks isolated one from another by folding, faulting, tilting, erosion, and burial under alluvium. Consequently the sequence is not complete at any one locality and can be learned only by examining many different parts of the area.

The oldest rocks to be seen are among the oldest known on earth. They are chiefly schists and gneisses but include bodies of limestone and have all been recrystallized by heat and pressure so that they contain no recognized traces of life. They greatly resemble the rocks of the granite gorge in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. they may best be seen from the road that follows the base of the steep mountain wall along the east side of death Valley between Bad Water and Mormon Point.

The next oldest group of rocks is separated from the underlying oldest and from the overlying paleozoic rocks by unconformities tht represent long periods of erosion. they consist of limestones, shales, and sandstones that in places contain bodies of dark igneous rocks now altered to greenstones. They are interesting for their vivid coloring and conspicuous banding and for the deposits of talc that they contain along the contracts of greenstone and limestone. Some of the limestone beds contain abundant remains of primitive plants (algae). In many of these respects they resemble the group correspondingly situated in the Grand Canyon. The most complete section of them is exposed near Beck Spring in the Kingston Range but exposures may be seen along the mountain front about a mile south of the mouth of Ashford Canyon and on the divide where the road from Furnace Creek to Baker crosses the county line.

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