Roadside Geology

Slightly off-topic, but I wanted to write something quickly, since I’m still stuck writing about talc. It’s harder than it looks, this lark.

Following some links and ending up at, I saw something that I hadn’t seen before which made me smile. An imbedded link, for Mountain Press’ long-lived series, Roadside Geology. Awww.

Roadside Geology of Arizona

Roadside Geology of Arizona, published by Mountain Press.

Not wanting to appear to be just a vulgar shill for the publishing industry, let me just say that my memories of these books, with their bright, primary-coloured covers, go back to when I was fairly young, and my father was reading through an early edition – probably of the Arizona volume, if I had to guess. I’ve been around these books for a long time, and have grown to like them very much.

If I had one complaint about the series, it would be summed up in four words: more volumes, more quickly. The volume on Missouri has been promised for at least a year now, with the publication date continually being pushed back. I know that times are difficult, economically, but I’d really like to be able to drive around and read that book (and put a couple of dollars in author Dr Charles Spencer’s pocket, he’s a decent sort who I’ve bumped into for years now at the Kansas City Gem & Mineral Show). It’s also my habit now to pick up volumes, if they’re available, for states that we’re going to drive through on holiday. Last summer, that meant my copy of the Nebraska volume (now oddly out of print, it seems), Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. I may not necessarily read everything in advance, but the books are a great sort of general reference whether you’re planning your trip or find yourself parked along the road somewhere, staring at the cut, and wondering “what the hell is that?”, in that way that the geologically-minded tend to do.

Do you live in a state for which one of the volumes has been published? How useful is it? Is there a better option? I’d like to know, as I suspect that there will be more driving holidays in my future, starting this summer, with a return trip to the San Francisco area that may include one or two lengthy detours…


Earthquake Weather

Although this is a blog about mineralogy, as it – and I – are based in Missouri, I couldn’t resist posting a link to this article from the Carthage Press, February is Earthquake Awareness Month in Missouri, because it made me smile for a moment.

New Madrid Historical Society

A delightful ante-bellum home from New Madrid, Missouri. Photo Credit: New Madrid Historical Society.

Typically, when thinking of the more earthquake-prone states in the United States, Missouri does not come to mind. But nearly two hundred years ago, beginning on 11 December 1811 and continuing through 7 February 1812, several of the most vigorous earthquakes recorded in the young United States struck in the New Madrid area of southeastern Missouri and northern Arkansas. It was so vigorous that the Mississippi River appeared to flow backwards, according to eyewitness reports. New Madrid itself was destroyed in the final quake, St. Louis suffered substantial damage, and church bells were said to ring as far away as Boston, Massachussetts and York, Ontario.


For more information, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has additional information here. There are also multiple books on the history of the quakes, On Shaky Ground: the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-12, and The New Madrid Earthquakes among them. It’s a fascinating topic in early American – and in geological – history. Additionally, the city of New Madrid, Missouri has a website to visit as well. Enjoy!