For the more information about the geologic resources of the National Park Service, please visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/geology/.


Tour of Park Geology

Plate Tectonics

Basin & Range

We live on a layer of Earth known as the lithosphere which is a collection of rigid slabs that are shifting and sliding into each other. These slabs are called tectonic plates and fit together like pieces to a puzzle. The shifts and movements of these plates is what helps shape our landscape by forming mountain ranges, transforming the ocean floor, and shaping lands near plate boundaries.

Below you will find a list of parks that share this common geologic theme based on how these plates interact.

For more in depth information, visit the Earth Science Concepts page for Plate Tectonics.

Divergent Plate Boundaries

Divergent Plate Boundaries Learn more »

Convergent Plate Boundaries

Convergent Plate Boundaries Learn more »

Transform Plate Boundaries

Transform Plate Boundaries Learn more »

Hot
Spots

Hot Spots Learn more »

Accreted Terrains

Accreted Terrains Learn more »

 


Divergent Plate Boundaries

Crustal extension causes the earth's crust to rift, creating horsts and grabens. This basin and range topography occurs along a normal fault. Graphic by Trista L. Thornberry-Ehrlich, Colorado State University.

Continental Rifts - Active

Continental Rifts - Ancient

Passive Continental Margins

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Convergent Plate Boundaries

At a convergent plate boundary the older, more dense crust will sink, or "subduct" under the other. There can be a Normal-Angle Subduction and a Low-Angle Subduction. Source: R. J. Lillie. 2005. Parks and Plates.

Ocean-Ocean Subduction Zones

Collisional Mountain Ranges

Ocean-Continent Subduction Zone

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Transform Plate Boundaries

Continental

Oceanic

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Hot Spots

Continental

Oceanic

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Accreted Terrains

A terrane accretion is the result of sediment and rocks piling onto a plate at a convergent boundary. This is a cross-sectional view of southern Alaska's accreted terrane. Source: R. J. Lillie. 2005. Parks and Plates.

North American Cordillera


Additional Information

Parks & Plates

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

Ever have questions about the fascinating natural dynamics working in our national parks? This book aims to provide answers to some of them. 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!


Explore Further

| Tour of Park Geology | Plate Tectonics | Education & Outreach |

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Last Updated: April 30, 2014