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Journal of Creation 29(1):14–15, April 2015

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The Appalachian Mountains are young


Figure 1. Blue Ridge Escarpment, a 600-m high cliff at Caesars Head State Park, North Carolina (view southeast), is an example of a steep escarpment in the Appalachian Mountains. Click for larger view.

In the United States, most students learned in their grade school geography class that the Appalachian Mountains have the appearance of old age since they are rather rounded or ‘subdued’. They may have also learned the Appalachians are predominantly composed of Paleozoic sedimentary rock. However, there are places in the Appalachian Mountains that are rugged, indicative of recent uplift:

“Conventional wisdom holds that the southern Appalachian Mountains have not experienced a significant phase of tectonic forcing for >200 myr; yet, they share many characteristics with tectonically active settings, including locally high topographic relief, steep slopes, incised river gorges, and frequent mass-wasting.”1

There are places with steep vertical cliffs 600 m (1,970 ft) high in western North Carolina (figure 1). Vertical faces erode much faster than horizontal surfaces, largely from rockfall. ‘Old’ terrains should not have cliffs. The vertically walled canyons should have become V-shaped valleys long ago if uniformitarian dating were correct.2

‘Solving’ the Appalachian problem

The Appalachian problem was ‘solved’ by secular scientists postulating more than one uplift, the last called a ‘rejuvenation’.1 The authors use the Cullasaja River basin in Tennessee and North Carolina to show that the most recent uplift was in the late Miocene, about 8.5 million years ago. They noticed that the Cullasaja River and its tributaries have numerous knickpoints and sharp convexities in an otherwise concave-up longitudinal river and stream profile. Knickpoints are characterized by waterfalls, rapids, or steep gradients in the river or stream. The authors analyze and eliminate all other mechanisms for knickpoint generation except uplift. They determine the time of uplift by using the regression of tributary knickpoints that begin at the junction with the main river and migrate headward. This calculation is based on uniformitarian dates and slow erosion over millions of years, giving it a late Miocene date.

Flood geology reinterpretation

One aspect of Flood geology is to reinterpret observations made by uniformitarians.3 The secular Appalachian data looks ‘solid’, so how would we go about reinterpreting the data? The beginning point would be to place the erosion of the Appalachian Mountains within the Biblical Geological Model.4 Within this framework the erosion of the Appalachian Mountains and the development of the Cullasaja River Basin would have occurred during the Recessive Stage of the Flood. The erosion in the central Appalachians is around 6,000 m (19,700 ft), based on the rank (i.e. the stage attained in the progression from vegetation to anthracite) of coal and the amount of sedimentary rocks and sediments on the continental margin.5,6

This estimate is close to the uniformitarian estimate.7 Erosion this deep and extensive would be characterized by the Abative or Sheet Flow Phase during the early part of the Recessional Stage of the Noahic Flood.5,8 Such activity would have occurred during differential uplift of the Appalachians and the sinking of the continental margin by about 14 km!9

The Cullasaja River valley, as well as other river valleys, display more linear forms of erosion that would be placed in the Dispersive or Channelized Flow Phase, during the latter half of the Recessional Stage. The Cullasaja River Valley was carved after the general erosion of the Appalachians. It would be at this time that the knickpoints retreated rapidly headward, close to where they exist today, indicating that the Appalachian Mountains are young. It was also at this time that hundreds of water and wind gaps were formed by channelized erosion across ridges.10,6 After the Flood the knickpoints would have retreated only slightly.

References and notes

  1. Gallen, S.F., Wegmann, K.W. and Bohnenstiehl, D.R., Miocene rejuvenation of topographic relief in the southern Appalachians, GSA Today 23(2):4, 2013. Return to text.
  2. Twidale, C.R., Geomorphology, Thomas Nelson, Sydney, Australia, p. 165, 1968. Return to text.
  3. A problem with geological observations is that they sometimes contain a select sample and cause a bias to creep into the interpretation. This is an excellent reason for creationists to do their own field work in geology and paleontology. Return to text.
  4. Walker, T., A biblical geologic model; in: Walsh, R.E. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, technical symposium sessions, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 581-592, 1994; biblicalgeology.net. Return to text.
  5. Oard, M.J., Origin of Appalachian geomorphology Part I: erosion by retreating Floodwater and the formation of the continental margin, CRSQ 48(1):33-48, 2011. Return to text.
  6. Oard, M.J., Earth’s Surface Shaped by Genesis Flood Runoff, 2013, michael.oards.net (especially chapter 8 and appendix 4). Return to text.
  7. Pazzaglia, F.J. and Gardner, T.W., Late Cenozoic landscape evolution of the US Atlantic passive margin: insights into a North American Great Escarpment; in: Summerfield, M.A. (Ed.), Geomorphology and Global Tectonics, John Wiley & Sons, New York, p. 287, 2000. Return to text.
  8. Oard, M.J., Origin of Appalachian geomorphology Part II: surficial erosion surfaces, CRSQ 48(2): 105-122, 2011. Return to text.
  9. Poag, C.W., U.S. middle Atlantic continental rise: provenance, dispersal, and deposition of Jurassic to Quaternary sediments; in: Poag, C.W. and de Graciansky, P.C. (Eds.), Geological Evolution of Atlantic Continental Rises, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, pp. 100-156, 1992. Return to text.
  10. Oard, M.J., Origin of Appalachian geomorphology Part III: channelized erosion late in the Flood, CRSQ 48(4):329-351, 2012. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Exploring Geology with Mr Hibb
by Michael Oard, Tara Wolfe, Chris Turbuck
US $16.00
Hard Cover
Exploring Geology with Mr Hibb
by Michael Oard, Tara Wolfe, Chris Turbuck
US $10.00
eReader (.epub)

Readers’ comments

Bridget M.
At what point in the flood did the Appalachian mountains themselves form and what sort of mountains are they thought to be? Would it have been early on after which they were significantly eroded to their current height (and would this be part of the reason for the vast coal seams in the area)? The article mentioned 19,700 ft - is that the estimated original height for the Appalachians? And what would be the age of them compared to the Rockies?

I'm vastly interested in this because I grew up in West Virginia in the heart of the Appalachians. The 19,700 ft is also of interest, knowing that the western portion of my home state, though very rugged and looking like mountains, is actually a dissected plain. I've heard taught by secular science, of course, that it was formed over millions of years, with the northern part of the plateau being glaciated and the southern part that is in WV being unglaciated. What is the creationist view on the formation of the Allegheny plateau? Would the southern portion of the plateau been channeled during the early recessional phase that was eroding the mountains themselves, or was it done later? And would glaciers have had a part to play?

It would be nice to have a proper, Biblical understanding of the basic geology of my home area. Thank you!
Tas Walker
You have some interesting questions. Professional geologists have usually done a good job in working out the relative order of the rocks and the relative timing of any folding that occurred. So, you can profitably use their maps and reports, provided you can convert their dates into the biblical timescale, and be aware for incorrect interpretations they occasionally make. This article about Maui gives a rough idea of how to change the dates cited by long-age geologists into the biblical timeline. Here are some articles that are relevant to your questions:
Mining mountains in West Virginia

Do rivers erode through mountains?

The Appalachian Mountains are young
Terry D P.
Wherever you see sedimentary rock on dry land, the inference is that that sedimentary rock was formed underwater. The fact that such sedimentary rock is now high above sea level on dry land points to huge cataclysmic changes in the earth’s surface that occurred in the past.
We know from satellite measurements of continental drift, that continental drift is still occurring today, albeit at a much slower rate than it must have occurred in the past, for example in continental collisions which raised the Himalayas. Today’s earthquakes are additional evidence of ongoing movements in the earth’s crust.
The Bible says that the earth was twice completely covered with water in the past, first on day three when God caused dry land to appear, and again in the time of Noah, in the year “The placing of a catastrophic global flood in the year 2304 BC…” calculated by CMI from Bible chronology.
«/ In taking this view they [atheists] lose sight of the fact that there were heavens and earth long ago, created by God's word out of water and with water; and by water that first world was destroyed, the water of the deluge. — 2P§3:5-6 /»
«/ …the deep overspread it like a cloak, and the waters lay above the mountains. At thy rebuke they ran, at the sound of thy thunder they rushed away, flowing over the hills, pouring down into the valleys to the place appointed for them. Thou didst fix a boundary which they might not pass; they shall not return to cover the earth. Thou dost make springs break out in the gullies, so that their water runs between the hills.— Ps§104:6-10 /»
Uniformitarianism surmises that the earth’s sedimentary rock was formed by gradual processes over millions of years, but ignores the catastrophes which turned that those sediments into mountains of hard rock on dry land.

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