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. The Appalachian
of East Tennessee have altitudes up to 6,000 feet. They consist of
ancient rock types - slate, granite, gneiss, and metasandstone. The Cumberland
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.