Explore Geology
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Big South Fork

National River and Recreation Area

Kentucky & Tennessee

cover of park brochure

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Photo of hikers at Big South Fork
Big South Fork, Kentucky & Tennessee

During the 20th century, much of the Cumberland Plateau was stripped of its marketable trees and easily accessible coal. Sediments from the denuded land and acid from the mines filled the streams. Although loggers and miners are still active on the plateau, young trees now clothe most of the logged-over lands and environmental controls are reducing the impact that mining has on the rivers and streams.

Life was often hard for those who directly depended on the area's natural resources for their livelihood, and cash income was usually very limited. The U.S. Congress was aware of the needs of the area and decided to set aside a part of the Cumberland Plateau in order to provide new economic opportunities for the region through recreation. The legislation also provided for the protection, conservation, and interpretation of the natural and cultural resources and maintenance of the river as a free flowing stream. To accomplish this task, two agencies of the Federal Government are working together in a partnership of service to create and manage the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, known locally as the "National Area".

Within the National Area, lush vegetation now clothes the ridges and covers sites that once were homesteads, logging camps, and mining communities. This new growth hides mine entrances and encroaches upon the coal tipples and is gradually transforming old fields into forests. Many of the old roads that crisscross the area are fading into the landscape and are now no longer passable by vehicles.

The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, with its many years of experience in managing river basins, determined which parcels of land were needed to maintain the integrity of the river valleys and to provide for the type of development and use authorized by the Congress. The boundaries were then established by the Congress, and the Corps of Engineers was directed to proceed with acquisition. As tracts of land are acquired, they are turned over to the National Park Service for protection and management.

The Corps of Engineers has also been busy developing plans for the construction of facilities that will be provided within the National Area. As these facilities are completed by the Corps they will be operated and maintained by the National Park Service for the use and enjoyment of the area's visitors. For its part, the National Park Service sees the Big South Fork as an area set aside so that people can actively enjoy this rugged scenic area, an area in which opportunities abound for whitewater canoeing, rafting, kayaking, hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, and horseback riding. Today, even though the planning and development are not complete, the staff of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area stands ready to welcome you to the beauty of the Cumberland Plateau.

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The General park map handed out at the visitor center is available on the park's map webpage.

For information about topographic maps, geologic maps, and geologic data sets, please see the geologic maps page.

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A geology photo album for this park can be found here.

For information on other photo collections featuring National Park geology, please see the Image Sources page.

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Currently, we do not have a listing for a park-specific geoscience book. The park's geology may be described in regional or state geology texts.

Please visit the Geology Books and Media webpage for additional sources such as text books, theme books, CD ROMs, and technical reports.

Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments & Seashores.
Lillie, Robert J., 2005.
W.W. Norton and Company.
ISBN 0-393-92407-6
9" x 10.75", paperback, 550 pages, full color throughout

The spectacular geology in our national parks provides the answers to many questions about the Earth. The answers can be appreciated through plate tectonics, an exciting way to understand the ongoing natural processes that sculpt our landscape. Parks and Plates is a visual and scientific voyage of discovery!

Ordering from your National Park Cooperative Associations' bookstores helps to support programs in the parks. Please visit the bookstore locator for park books and much more.

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For information about permits that are required for conducting geologic research activities in National Parks, see the Permits Information page.

The NPS maintains a searchable data base of research needs that have been identified by parks.

A bibliography of geologic references is being prepared for each park through the Geologic Resources Evaluation Program (GRE). Please see the GRE website for more information and contacts.

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NPS Geology and Soils Partners

NRCS logoAssociation of American State Geologists
NRCS logoGeological Society of America
NRCS logoNatural Resource Conservation Service - Soils
USGS logo U.S. Geological Survey

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General information about the park's education and intrepretive programs is available on the park's education webpage.

For resources and information on teaching geology using National Park examples, see the Students & Teachers pages.
updated on 01/04/2005  I   http://www.nature.nps.gov/Geology/parks/biso/index.cfm   I  Email: Webmaster
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