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USGS Geology in the Parks

Geologic Provinces of the United States: Appalachian Highlands Gallery

Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Photo by photo by Bob McDowell, USGS.

At 6643 feet above sea level, Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina, is one of the highest peaks in the Appalachians. Located in the western part of the Blue Ridge province, the mountain is underlain by coarse metasandstone and conglomerate interbedded with garnet schist and metasiltstone of the Late Proterozoic Great Smoky Group. These rocks were transported westward above Paleozoic carbonate rocks along the Great Smoky thrust fault in the Alleghanian orogeny during the Carboniferous. Looking west toward the Great Valley, the high elevation ridges support fir and balsam more typically associated with Canadian climate. These are remnant forests of the last ice age. Periglacial conditions affected the highlands of the Appalachian Blue Ridge. The Appalachian Trail follows the ridge line and drainage divide of the borders of North Caroliona (left) and Tennessee (right). Patches of snow cover "balds" whose origin are unknown—probably the result of lightning strikes, forest fires, prehistoric land clearing, and historical grazing. Unlike the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains, the highlands here have limited exposure of bedrock and meter thick organic soil.

Appalachian Highlands
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