What are America’s Best ‘Geosites’?

GEOGRAPHY

Members of the British public were asked to vote for the “geo-sites” they felt had done the most to shape the landscape and cultural heritage of the United Kingdom. Now what about the US? (The Telegraph)

Take a look through our geography resources and choose your favorites in the 10 geosite categories listed below. What are some landscapes that help define the United States? Why? There are no right answers! Be creative!

Then make a “geo-tour” of geosites using our MapMaker Interactive! Use the tutorial to make the most of MapMaker’s capabilities—choose your base layer, use markers, and add photos and links.

Here’s what ours looks like—be sure to click on the titles for links to our materials! Today, our map plus the 11 photos in this post make up our “Teachers’ Toolkit”!

Discussion Ideas

The first category is “Landscape.” The British winner is Assynt, a region in the Scottish Highlands. Take a look at Assynt here. What are some landscapes that help define the United States?

The Grand Canyon? It symbolizes the rugged isolation of the American West. (Sam, I bet you'll want to substitute the Adirondacks.) Photograph by Walter Meayers Edwards, National Geographic

The Grand Canyon? It symbolizes the rugged isolation of the American West. (Sam, I bet you’ll want to substitute the Adirondacks.)
Photograph by Walter Meayers Edwards, National Geographic

 

The second category is “Industrial and Economic Importance.” The British winner is the Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire, the symbol of the Industrial Revolution. Look at the Iron Bridge here. What location do you think symbolizes American industrial and economic importance?

Wall Street? This New York City street is nothing less than the center of the economic universe. Photograph by Ramy Majouji, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

Wall Street? This New York City street is nothing less than the center of the economic universe.
Photograph by Ramy Majouji, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

 

The third category is “Historical and Scientific Importance.” The British winner is Siccar Point, Berwickshire. Take a look at the “unconformity” here. Siccar Point is the place geologist James Hutton cited when developing a theory that became known as “uniformitarianism”—the idea that the same natural laws and processes that operate in the universe now have always operated in the universe. Read more about uniformitarianism here. What location do you think symbolizes American historical and scientific importance?

White Sands, New Mexico? This was where the confusingly named Manhattan Project detonated the world's first atomic weapons. Photograph by Jack Aeby, courtesy Department of Energy

White Sands, New Mexico? This was where the confusingly named Manhattan Project detonated the world’s first atomic weapons.
Photograph by Jack Aeby, courtesy Department of Energy

 

The fourth category is “Educational.” The British winner is the Rotunda Museum in Scarborough, Yorkshire. The Rotunda Museum, which is still operating, was one of the UK’s first buildings specifically built as a museum (in this case, for geological specimens.) What location do you think symbolizes education in America?

The Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C.? These museums display American artifacts from Hope Diamonds to ruby slippers. Photograph by Charles Martin, National Geographic

The Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C.? These museums display American artifacts from Hope Diamonds to ruby slippers. Tirzah, I know you have a special fondness for this one!
Photograph by Charles Martin, National Geographic

 

The fifth category is “Adventurous.” The British winner is Staffa, a rocky island that is part of Scotland’s Inner Hebrides. Staffa is uninhabited and famous for its sea caves. What area best exemplifies American adventure?

Alaska? Our largest, least-developed, and most sparsely populated state is sometimes nicknamed "The Last Frontier." Julie, you've lived from sea to shining sea—where did you feel most adventurous? Photograph by W. Robert Moore, National Geographic

Alaska? Our largest, least-developed, and most sparsely populated state is sometimes nicknamed “The Last Frontier.”
Julie, you’ve lived from sea to shining sea—where did you feel most adventurous?
Photograph by W. Robert Moore, National Geographic

 

The sixth category is “Human Habitation.” The British winner is Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. What site of human habitation best exemplifies the cultural heritage of the U.S.?

Cahokia, Illinois? This ancient city thrived on trade and multicultural exchange—characteristics that continue to define the United States. Justine, you know urban planning! What would you suggest? Photograph by Ira Block, National Geograhpic

Cahokia, Illinois? This ancient city thrived on trade and multicultural exchange—characteristics that continue to define the United States.
Justine, you know urban planning! What would you suggest?
Photograph by Ira Block, National Geograhpic

 

The seventh category is “Coastal.” The British winner are the dramatically layered Hunstanton Cliffs, Norfolk. What coastal area symbolizes the U.S.?

The Florida Keys? This tropical archipelago is a contradiction, just like the U.S.—inhabited and uninhabited, Atlantic and Gulf, rich and poor. Sean, I know you are partial to the Narragansett Bay. Photograph by Emory Kristof, National Geographic

The Florida Keys? This tropical archipelago is a contradiction, just like the U.S.—inhabited and uninhabited, Atlantic and Gulf, rich and poor.
Sean, I know you are partial to the Narragansett Bay.
Photograph by Emory Kristof, National Geographic

 

The eighth category is “Outcrops.” The British winner is Craster, Northumberland, where the rocky dolomite layer known as the Great Whin Sill is visible. What rocky outcrops help define the U.S. landscape?

Glacier National Park, Montana? Outcrops in this national park are the result of orogeny—mountain building—as well as the remains of the last ice age, when glaciers scoured the northern U.S. landscape. Elaine, I know you are partial to the Badlands. Photograph by Kathleen Revis, National Geographic

Glacier National Park, Montana? Outcrops in this national park are the result of orogeny—mountain building—as well as the remains of the last ice age, when glaciers scoured the northern U.S. landscape.
Elaine, I know you are partial to the Badlands.
Photograph by Kathleen Revis, National Geographic

 

The ninth category is “Folding and Faulting.” The British winner are the zigzag cliffs of Millook Haven, Cornwall. What mountainous folds or tectonic faults contribute to the U.S. landscape?

The San Andreas Fault? This dramatic transform fault is just one of the West Coast's dizzying array of tectonic spiderwebs. Here, the Pacific plate is striking northwest, while the North American plate is slipping southeast. Winn, I expect you to make a case for the Appalachians! Photograph by James P. Blair, National Geographic

The San Andreas Fault? This dramatic transform fault is just one of the West Coast’s dizzying array of tectonic spiderwebs. Here, the Pacific plate is striking northwest, while the North American plate is slipping southeast.
Winn, I expect you to make a case for the Appalachians!
Photograph by James P. Blair, National Geographic

 

The final category is “Fire and Ice.” The British winner is Glencoe, a valley in the Scottish Highlands carved by an ancient glacier. (What a view!) What landscape typifies American “fire and ice”?

Mauna Loa, Hawaii? Photograph by Robert Madden, National Geographic

Mauna Loa, Hawaii . . . 
Photograph by Robert Madden, National Geographic

or Yellowstone, Montana? They're both big, beautiful volcanoes—and it's my map; I don't have to! Photograph by George Steinmetz, National Geographic

. . . or Yellowstone, Montana? They’re both big, beautiful volcanoes—and it’s my map; I don’t have to choose if I don’t want to!
Photograph by George Steinmetz, National Geographic

2 responses to “What are America’s Best ‘Geosites’?

  1. I would vote to see the Adirondacks on this list! But, White Sands is a great consolation prize! Remind me to show you my pictures from there sometime!

  2. I felt most adventurous when kayaking 200 miles in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. I knew I touched trees, and discovered brooks that no other human had explored. I felt like a real explorer!

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