Tectonic Landforms

Find Your Park illustration of 2 hikers on a mountain top, text "see the power of tectonic plates"

We live on a layer of Earth known as the lithosphere which is a collection of rigid slabs that are shifting and sliding into each other. These slabs are called tectonic plates and fit together like pieces to a puzzle. The shifts and movements of these plates is what helps shape our landscape by forming mountain ranges, transforming the ocean floor, and shaping lands near plate boundaries.

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Geological Monitoring

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    Photo Gallery

    fault block valley

    Tectonic Landforms

    flickr album

    Tectonic Landforms in Parks

    Below you will find a list of parks that share in common geologic themes based on similar plate tectonic settings.

    block diagram of horst and graben

    Divergent Plate Boundaries

    Continental Rifts - Active

    Basin and Range Rio Grand Rift

    Continental Rifts - Ancient

    Keweenawan Rift

    Passive Continental Margins

    Atlantic Coast Gulf Coast
    diagram of convergent plates

    Convergent Plate Boundaries

    Ocean-Ocean Subduction Zones

    Alaska Peninsula

    Western Pacific

    Collisional Mountain Ranges

    Appalachain Mountains

    Ouachita Mountains

    Marathon Mountains

    Brooks Range

    Ocean-Continent Subduction Zone

    Active Volcanic Arc - Cascades

    Active Volcanic Arc - Alaska

    Ancient Arc - Sierra Nevada Mountains

    Accretionary Wedge - Coast Ranges

    Low-Angle Subduction - Laramide Uplifts

    block diagram of transform fault

    Transform Plate Boundaries


    San Andreas Fault


    diagram of a hotspot

    Hot Spots




    Hawaii - Emperor
    diagram of accreted terrains

    Accreted Terrains

    North American Cordillera

    Alaska Pacific Northwest
    Parks and Plates cover
    Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments & Seashores. Lillie, Robert J., 2005.
    W.W. Norton and Company.
    ISBN 0-393-92407-6
    9" x 10.75", paperback, 550 pages, full color throughout

    Ever have questions about the fascinating natural dynamics working in our national parks? This book aims to provide answers to some of them. The spectacular geology in our national parks provides the answers to many questions about the Earth. The answers can be appreciated through plate tectonics, an exciting way to understand the ongoing natural processes that sculpt our landscape. Parks and Plates is a visual and scientific voyage of discovery!


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