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.

For more in depth information, visit the Earth Science Concepts page for Plate Tectonics.


fault block valley

Tectonic Landforms

flickr album

Below you will find a list of parks that share this common geologic theme based on how these plates interact.

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

Collisional Mountain Ranges

Ouachita Mountains

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

diagram of a hotspot

Hot Spots

diagram of accreted terrains

Accreted Terrains

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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