Candy Moulton: Reading the West 5-21-12
Before there was any story of the people, there is the story of the land, and Mountain Press Publishing has recently released a new volume in its popular Roadside Geology series – this one about Yellowstone Country.
With more than 10,000 geysers, hot springs, fumaroles and mud pots, as well as miles and miles of once-incendiary rhyolite, Yellowstone today is a reminder of its fiery past as well as the volatile present. The region contains one-fifth of the world’s geysers, and is the setting of some of the Earth’s most destructive volcanic eruptions.
All of this means the geology of Yellowstone Country is both diverse and expansive. In their new book, William J. Fritz, a professor of geology at the College of Staten Island and Robert C. Thomas, geology professor at the University of Montana Western in Dillon, Mont., give concise descriptions of Yellowstone’s geology, explaining it in terms laypeople will be able to easily understand.
The book includes 19 road guides that explore the region including 50-million-year-old petrified tress buried in conglomerate, and a mountain-sized block of rock that slid more than 50 miles in a massive debris avalanche. The guides provide information about the glacially carved craggy peaks and U-shaped valleys of the Beartooth Mountains and Absaroka Range, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
The authors are well versed in this region. Fritz is also emeriti professor of geology at George State University, where he was the director of summer geology field camp taught in Dillon, Mont., and Yellowstone for many years. Thomas has worked in the region for years and has recently won the GSA Distinguished Service Award as well as the U.S. Outstanding Baccalaureate College Professor of the Year Award from the Carnegie foundation.
Taking you to the next history step beyond geology is “Montana Before History – 11,000 Years of Hunter-Gatherers in the Rockies and Plains” by Douglas McDonald. This guide to Montana’s best archaeological sites includes one that was a cache left by mammoth hunters more than 11,000 years ago. The book explores the region from the Paleoindian period to the Late Prehistoric period, details how Montana’s early people adapted to the rugged environment and several dramatic changes in climate.
McDonald teaches in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Montana where he specializes in prehistoric archaeology, stone tools, and cultural resource management. He spends summers leading excavations at archaeological sites across Montana and in Yellowstone National Park.
While “Montana Before History,” is a somewhat scholarly treatment, it will appeal to anyone who wants to know more about the earliest people in the region.
Both books have numerous color photographs, charts, graphs and maps to help you better understand these interesting and important resources.