NPS Geodiversity Atlas—Bluestone National Scenic River, West Virginia

Geodiversity refers to the full variety of natural geologic (rocks, minerals, sediments, fossils, landforms, and physical processes) and soil resources and processes that occur in the park. A product of the Geologic Resources Inventory, the NPS Geodiversity Atlas delivers information in support of education, Geoconservation, and integrated management of living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) components of the ecosystem.

gri report cover with park landscape photo
In-depth geologic information is contained in the baseline inventory products of the Geologic Resources Inventory, see table below.


Bluestone National Scenic River (BLUE) protects a 17 km (11 mi) stretch of the Bluestone River in Mercer and Summers Counties, southwestern West Virginia (Figure 8). Authorized as an NPS unit on October 26, 1988, BLUE encompasses 1,744 hectares (4,310 acres) of diverse and picturesque landscape of the southern Appalachians. The park was designated for its remarkable scenery, geology, recreation, fish, and wildlife values (Anderson 2017). Cultural resources associated with BLUE are vast and reflect thousands of years of human history dating back to the American Indians, the early pioneers, and the dramatic industrial transformation related to the coal-mining industry (Thornberry-Ehrlich 2017).
Geologic Setting

The geology of BLUE consists of Pennsylvanian (~325–300 million years ago) and Mississippian-age (~360–325 million years ago) rocks that include the Bluefield, Hinton, Princeton, Bluestone, Pocahontas, and Blue River Formations. The geologic units of BLUE represent ancient fluvial to nearshore depositional environments in the Appalachian basin. Development of the Appalachian basin began during the Taconic Orogeny, the first of a series of mountain-building events that culminated in the construction of the Appalachian Mountains (Thornberry-Ehrlich 2017). The Bluestone River is named for the deep blue limestone streambed observable upstream of the Bluestone Dam at its confluence with the New River. Along its course, the Bluestone River has carved a rugged gorge up to 300 m (1,000 ft) deep (Thornberry-Ehrlich 2017). The living landscape of BLUE also includes cascading waterfalls, stirring rapids, forested slopes, and stunning vistas that provide an unspoiled experience for visitors.

Regional Geology

Bluestone National Scenic River is a part of the Appalachian Plateaus Physiographic Province and shares its geologic history and some characteristic geologic formations with a region that extends well beyond park boundaries.

Maps and Reports

The Geologic Resources Inventory produces digital geologic maps and reports for more than 270 natural resource parks. The products listed below are currently available for this park, check back often for updates as many maps, reports, and posters are still in progress.
  • Scoping summaries are records of scoping meetings where NPS staff and local geologists determined the park’s geologic mapping plan and what content should be included in the report.
  • Digital geologic maps include files for viewing in GIS software, a guide to using the data, and a document with ancillary map information. Newer products also include data viewable in Google Earth and online map services.
  • Reports use the maps to discuss the park’s setting and significance, notable geologic features and processes, geologic resource management issues, and geologic history.
  • Posters are a static view of the GIS data in PDF format. Newer posters include aerial imagery or shaded relief and other park information. They are also included with the reports.
  • Projects list basic information about the program and all products available for a park.

Source: Data Store Saved Search 2726. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

NPS Soil Resources Inventory project has been completed for Bluestone National Scenic River and can be found on the NPS Data Store.

Source: Data Store Saved Search 2778. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

GRI Geology Image Gallery

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Bluestone National Scenic River

National Park Service Geodiversity Atlas

The servicewide Geodiversity Atlas provides information on geoheritage and geodiversity resources and values within the National Park System. This information supports science-based geoconservation and interpretation in the NPS, as well as STEM education in schools, museums, and field camps. The NPS Geologic Resources Division and many parks work with National and International geoconservation communities to ensure that NPS abiotic resources are managed using the highest standards and best practices available.

Bluestone National Scenic River

Last updated: June 13, 2024