Geology Roadtrips - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Florida, Arkansas and Missouri

Alum Bluff near Tallahassee, Florida

[Alum Bluff. Photo by Guy Means, Florida Geological Survey]

As the Apalachicola River has migrated eastward, it has cut and exposed Florida’s tallest natural exposure of geology at Alum Bluff. This bluff, one of several along this portion of the river, stands 172.5 feet above sea level and generally is about 140 feet above the river surface during normal flow conditions. This unique area of the state harbors a great diversity of scenery sure to please anyone willing to take the time to explore it.

Since most of Florida’s landscape has little topographic relief, geologists have conducted numerous studies of the stratigraphy and paleontology of this uniquely tall outcrop. The stratigraphic units exposed at Alum Bluff include siliciclastic and carbonate units, some of which harbor diverse assemblages of mollusks. The molluscan assemblages found at Alum Bluff have attracted amateur and professional paleontologists and collectors from around the world.

Guy H. Means, Florida Geological Survey
Alum Bluff is in Liberty County, also home to the Apalachicola National Forest. Access the bluff by boat or on foot. One of the closest boat landings is in the town of Bristol, on the east bank of the Apalachicola River along State Road 20. Get permission from the Nature Conservancy, which owns the land adjacent to the bluff, before accessing it by boat: 850/643-2756. No permission is needed to visit the bluff by foot.

To access the trailhead: Drive south on State Road 12, turn right onto Garden of Eden Road, a dirt road about 1.2 miles north of the intersection of State Road 12 with State Road 20. Go west on Garden of Eden Road 2 miles to a fenced area. Park here and follow the trail signs to Bluff Overlook. The 2-mile hike is strenuous, but worth the time.

Ponca Wilderness Area, Buffalo National River, Arkansas

The staff of the Arkansas Geological Commission recommends the Ponca Wilderness Area that overlooks the upper Buffalo National River. The magnificent bluffs lining the river expose strata of Ordovician and Mississippian ages. The area sports an old lead and zinc mining district, numerous caves, small-mouth bass fishing, camping, hiking, photography, wildlife, and several modern and ancient karst features and valleys to explore. Local outfitters rent out canoes and lodging. There are several campgrounds along the river or you can float down the river and camp on a gravel bar (one of my favorite ways to camp). Low water flow usually limits summer canoeing, but it also reduces the number of people visiting the area, giving the hiker or backpacker a true wilderness experience.

John McFarland, Arkansas Geological Commission
Phone: 870/741-5443
Web: www.nps.gov/buff/
Directions: Access the wilderness area and river from near Ponca, Newton County, which is near the intersection of routes 43 and 74 east of Fayetteville. To get to Big Bluff, go north on 43 from the town of Ponca. Follow the sign for Centerpoint Trailhead, park and hike. Also get a Trails Illustrated map of the west half of the Buffalo River National Park from local hiking shops, the Forest Service or ranger stations.

Maramec Spring Park, Missouri

State Geologist Mimi Garstang recommends the Maramec Spring Park near Rolla and St. James, which features trout fishing as well as an abandoned iron and hematite mine and an iron workings. Phone: 573/265-7387 or visit the Web site (click on St. James Community and then on Maramec Spring Park).

Garstang also recommends Elephant Rocks State Park: “The granite elephant rocks have the appearance of huge animals roaming the hillsides.” Phone: 573/697-5395. Web: www.mostateparks.com/elephantrock.htm

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