Mineralogy Field Trip to the TN-NC Blue Ridge Mountains
I will distribute the field trip handout, which includes a series of questions that the students completed during the field trip as well as various accompanying graphics. I will also show a small collection of mineral and rock samples collected during the trip. Finally, I will bring along some relevant published field trip guidebooks which I used to develop this trip.
The topics of Earth history and mineral resources form the two main themes for this three-day field trip to the Blue Ridge geologic province of southeastern TN and southwestern NC. The route includes stops at the Ocoee Gorge (TN), Ducktown (TN), Murphy (NC), Nantahala (NC), Cowee (NC), Franklin (NC), Winding Stair Gap (NC), Buck Creek (NC), and Corundum Knob (NC).
Field observations are focused on answering the following questions:
1. How can minerals (and the rocks in which they occur) inform our knowledge of Earth history, in this case, the Blue Ridge geologic province in easternmost Tennessee and westernmost North Carolina? What can we deduce about ancient geologic environments, ore-formation, crustal structure, plate tectonics, and mountain building events from a study of the minerals and rocks that occur in this area?
2. How have mineral resources effected this region over time? What minerals have been extracted for economic profit in this area, where are they concentrated, and how has the environment been modified as a result of natural processes (such as weathering) and human activities (such as ore mining and processing) over time? What is the state of post-mining environmental restoration in this region today?
I developed this field trip in 2017 for use in my undergraduate mineralogy course at the University of Kentucky. Completion of a handout constituted a portion of the students' grade, but beyond that, the field trip gave our students a fun, educational, outdoor experience in a place few of them had visited, and promoted social interaction with their fellow students and instructor.
Why It Works
This particular field trip visits classic localities highlighting metamorphic and igneous rocks, historically-important metallic ore deposits, environmental impacts of mining and subsequent reclamation efforts, a working marble quarry, historically-important gemstone mining districts, and one of the best mineral museums in the southern Appalachians.