This is not meant to be a geology textbook but rather a discussion that will help you understand what you see around you every day or if you take a trip around the State. For example, you're on your way to work or to class or you are going shopping. Most likely, you're driving down a wide valley surrounded by hills. What do the hills look like? Why does the topography change as you go from one part of the State to another? In my opinion, of all the states that make up Appalachia, West Virginia is the most interesting geologically. The western portion of the State, say, Monongalia or Marion counties, are characterized by subdued hills with gentle slopes and rounded tops and adjoin broad valleys. On the other hand, the eastern counties such as Pocahontas or Pendleton counties a re more mountainous, the elevations of the ridges will be significantly higher than those to the west. The slopes of the hills will be much steeper, in some cases vertical or near vertical and the valleys will be narrow. Why are the two areas so different? You will discover that some of the reasons are quite simple. For one thing, the kind of rocks that underlie the topography in the two regions are different. In the western part of the State, the underlying rocks consist of a combination of soft shales and argillaceous sandstones that succumb rather easily to processes of weathering and erosion. In the east, on the other hand, the ridges are held up by sandstones such as the Tuscarora sandstone that are hard and highly resistant to weathering. Such sandstones cap sharp ridgelines such as North Fork Mountain and support vertical outcrops such as Seneca Rocks while the valleys are underlain by limestones as well as shales that undergo weathering and erosion more readily. It all makes for a different landscape scenario. In order to understand why landscapes of West Virginia change from place to place, we must take a closer look at Earth, the materials that make up Earth and the processes that are responsible for the changes in Earth's surface that are constantly taking place. But where to start? As a geologist and teacher, I have always thought that to truly understand what we see around us we must start at the beginning. I do not mean for the manuscript that follows to be a highly detailed, scientific discussion, but rather a story of the events that have taken place that resulted in the formation of Earth and eventually to the landscape that surrounds you every day.
Renton, John J. and Repine, Thomas, "The Geology of West Virginia" (2016). Readings and Notes. 26.