Paterson's Geology - A Step Back in Time

What is Geology?

Geology is the science that studies and explains the physical structure of our Earth. It describes and characterizes the various rocks and minerals, and explains the processes that shaped land forms, above ground and under the ocean. Geology is both a practical science that is used by industry to locate mineral deposits, as well as a theoretical science that attempts to explain how the earth developed since it emerged from the original gas cloud that was the beginning of our solar system.

We can think of geology as the science of rocks. There are three different types of rocks: igneous rocks, metamorphic rocks, and sedimentary rocks.

Igneous rock is formed from lava, or magma, that has cooled into a solid.

Sedimentary rock is formed from sediments, such as the grains of sand, mud, dead vegetation, and even dead animals (like shellfish).

Metamorphic rock is formed when high temperature and pressure alter an existing rock.

View of the Great Falls and basaltic cliffs
A view of the Great Falls and basaltic cliffs.

V. Scott - NPS PHOTO


Geologically speaking, Paterson's past is a varied and exciting one. Volcanic lava flows, upheavals, even the break-up of the supercontinent Pangaea - these events are all part of this area's geologic pre-history. The Falls and other natural features in Paterson give us clues to parts of this story. As you walk over the Falls, through Upper Raceway Park, and around the Great Falls Historic District, you'll see some of these clues.

Last updated: May 13, 2018

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