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Tennessee Geology and Topography

Tennessee has highly diverse landscapes and rock types from one end of the state to the other. The altitudes, landforms, and types of rocks influence the soil and plants that grow in each region of the state. Driving from west to east across Interstate 40 is like riding a 500-mile long roller coaster with its many ups and downs across the plains, basins, plateaus, valleys, and mountains (click here for state topography map). The Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee have altitudes up to 6,000 feet. They consist of ancient rock types - slate, granite, gneiss, and metasandstone. The Cumberland Plateau, a hundred miles or so to the west, is made up of sandstone, limestone, siltstone, shale, and coal. Soil types often determine the kinds of plants that grow in them. For example, plants in the Heath family (rhododendrons, azeleas, mountain laurel, blueberries, trailing arbutus, etc.) prefer acidic soils and often grow in dry pine forests. To take a virtual geological "tour" of Tennessee from Cedars of Lebanon to Roan Mountain, take a look at the Geology and Topography gallery.


Big South Fork NRRA

Overlook at Big South Fork

Webpage: TN Geology