Book Review: Roadside Geology of ...

Reviewed by Stephen J. Bespalko

Lithosphere (September 1993); Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society, Inc.; Fallbrook, CA

The Roadside Geology series of books does not directly relate to mineral or gem collecting. Nonetheless, it is a fine series of books that will bring hours of enjoyment to anyone remotely interested in the geology that can be seen from the vantage point of an automobile. The series of approximately 18 books covers areas within the breadth and depth of the United States. The books are written by a variety of authors, but all are published by Mountain Press Publishing Company of Missoula, Montana. To give you an idea of the contents of a typical Roadside Geology volume, we describe one of them below.

Roadside Geology of New Mexico by Halka Chronic (ISBN 0-87842-209-9; 1987; $9.95) is well organized and very different from books you would normally think about taking on an automobile trip. The first chapter presents an introduction to basic geology and describes the overall geology of New Mexico. Each of the next four chapters cover approximately one quarter of the state. These chapters start with an introduction followed by about ten sections. One section covers the geology of a stretch of highway some tens of miles long. For example, the description of the geology along Interstate 40 through New Mexico, which extends about 350 miles, is covered in five sections.

The book contains a final chapter on the geology of the National Parks and Monuments located within the state of New Mexico. This chapter is a fine addition to the book since many of the most geologically interesting sites in New Mexico can be found in the parks. The book concludes with a further reading list, a glossary, and an index.

The numerous diagrams, charts, and maps are all well conceived and executed. Many are in multiple colors. The photographs are large enough and of the correct proportions to be easily identifiable with what you see from the road. The technical content is accessible to anyone with an interest in the earth sciences, and the writing style is ideal for a general interest science book. The author makes the book appealing to a broad audience by providing the proper balance between descriptions of the geology itself (usually the rock formations) and explanations of the geological processes that led to the creation of those formations.

After driving most of the roads between New Mexico and California, I have never found a better geological description of the vast panoramas that occur along those roads -- this includes the descriptions at scenic viewing stops and commonly available travel aids like the AAA Travel Guides. Roadside Geology of New Mexico belongs in the glove compartment of anyone taking road trips through New Mexico.

Other volumes in the Roadside Geology series of books include Idaho (1989), Montana (1986), Northern California (1975), Oregon (1978), The Northern Rockies (1972), and Washington [state] (1984) by David D. Alt and Donald W. Hyndman; Arizona (1983), Colorado (1980), New Mexico (1987), and Utah (1990) by Halka Chronic; Alaska (1988) by Cathy L. Connor and Daniel O'Haire; The Yellowstone Country (1985) by William J. Fritz; Virginia (1986) by Keith Frye; Wyoming (1988) by David R. Lageson and Darwin Spearing; Texas (1991) by Darwin Spearing; and New York (1985), Pennsylvania (1990), and Vermont and New Hampshire (1987) by Bradford B. VanDiver. Mountain Press Publishing also lists two other books that may be similar: Rocks, Ice and Water: The Geology of Waterton-Glacier Park (1973) by Alt and Hyndman; and Time, Rocks, and the Rockies: A Geologic Guide to Roads and Trails of Rocky Mountain National Park (1984) by Chronic.

Hopefully, the noteworthy absence from the list of titles, Southern California, will soon be added to the series.

Copyright © 1993 by Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society, Inc.

The preceding article was originally published in the September 1993 issue of Lithosphere, the official bulletin of the Fallbrook [California] Gem and Mineral Society, Inc; Richard Busch (Editor).

Permission to reproduce and distribute this material, in whole or in part, for non-commercial purposes, is hereby granted provided the sense or meaning of the material is not changed and the author's notice of copyright is retained.

Last updated: 18 September 2002