NPS Geodiversity Atlas—Catoctin Mountain Park, Maryland

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.

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


Catoctin Mountain Park (CATO) comprises the easternmost ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains located about 89 km (55 mi) northwest of Washington, D.C. in Frederick County, Maryland. Originally established as Catoctin Recreation Demonstration Area on January 7, 1935, the park unit was renamed and redesignated on July 12, 1954 (National Park Service 2016a). Catoctin Mountain Park encompasses approximately 2,384 hectares (5,891 acres) and provides quality recreational opportunities in the Catoctin Mountains and serves as a setting and buffer for the presidential retreat site Camp David. The park represents an outstanding example of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal-era legislation, and protects hardwood forest, historic buildings, camps, and pristine waterways while offering panoramic vistas of the Monocacy Valley. CATO is part of a larger protected area that includes Cunningham Falls State Park, the Frederick and Thurmont watersheds, and Gambrill State Park (Thornberry-Ehrlich 2009a).

Geologic Setting

Located on the easternmost portion of the Blue Ridge physiographic province of Maryland and northern Virginia, the landscape of CATO consists of rolling hills and narrow ridgetops separated by steep-sloped valleys and ravines (Thornberry-Ehrlich 2009a). The park is situated on the eastern slopes of Catoctin Mountain, which forms the eastern limb of the larger Blue Ridge–South Mountain anticlinorium. The bedrock underlying CATO is predominantly composed of metabasalt and metarhyolite of the Neoproterozoic Catoctin Formation. Meta-igneous rocks of the Catoctin Formation are interpreted as the remnants of continental flood basalts that erupted at a time when North America rifted apart to form the Iapetus Ocean (Mitra 1989; Badger 1992). Younger, Cambrian-age metamorphic units are mapped in the southeastern portion of CATO and include rocks of the Chilhowee Group (Loudoun, Weverton, and Harpers Formations). CATO and the surrounding area provides an opportunity to observe regional-scale deformation and metamorphism resulting from three major tectonic events (Taconic, Acadian, and Alleghenian Orogenies) that constructed the Appalachian Mountains.

Abandoned Mineral Lands

NPS AML sites can be important cultural resources and habitat, but many pose risks to park visitors and wildlife, and degrade water quality, park landscapes, and physical and biological resources. Be safe near AML sites—Stay Out and Stay Alive!

Regional Geology

Catoctin Mountain Park is a part of the Blue Ridge 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 2803. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

NPS Soil Resources Inventory project has been completed for Catoctin Mountain Park and can be found on the NPS Data Store.

Source: Data Store Saved Search 2754. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Related Articles

Catoctin Mountain Park

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.

Catoctin Mountain Park

Last updated: June 14, 2024