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Georgia’s “secret” volcanic range

Georgia’s “secret” volcanic range

POOF member, Suzanne Ward, mentioned the volcanic cones in the Pigeon Mountain Volcanic Range.   Virtually nobody knows about this unusual geological feature in the Southeast  . . . even the state’s geology professors seem to be unaware of it.  I called the directors of the geology departments in Georgia’s three largest public universities.  None of them knew much about the geology of the North Georgia Mountains and didn’t even know that the volcanic cones were there.

The Pigeon Mountain Volcanic Range is located west of Lafayette, GA and east of Lookout Mountain.

The Pigeon Mountain Volcanic Range is located west of Lafayette, GA and east of Lookout Mountain.  The dormant volcano on the right last erupted in 1857.

The only reason I know is that there are frequent tremblers under Pigeon Mountain.  It is dormant and last erupted in 1857.  The frequent little earthquakes trigger the “Earthquake Code” requirements of the International Building Code.  I telephoned the professors so that I could get more specific information on the amount structural reinforcement, my buildings needed.  They were no help at all.

The generally extinct line of volcanoes begin at Curahee Mountain near the Savannah River and are aligned roughly East-West across the state.  They cross the Blue Ridge Mountain Range and have distinctly different shapes than the Blue Ridge Mountains.   They are the source of the gold, copper, ruby, sapphire, garnet and diamond deposits in North Georgia.

Collapsed calderas

Calderas are especially large volcanic basins.  There are several ancient collapsed calderas in North Georgia.   We know of three that contain  complexes of Native American tombs.  They are often called caves by the local mountaineers, but were hand dug for burials. This is what a collapsed caldera looks like on a topographic map.


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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history.Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    The back story on this from me is that I was about 17 when I found the Obsidian. Was told it was flint. Carried some pieces I picked up with frozen froth and trapped air bubbles inside the glass like structure. Took it to the only geologist I knew at the time over on top Fort Mountain, he ran a rock and gem shop. His wife told me I was right. It was indeed Obsidian. When I attended Memorial University of Newfoundland, one professor I had there told me how wrong I was. I carried my samples to the dept head, Hank Williams was his name. He was amazed as the rest, disagreed, then later apologized and admitted my samples were Obsidian.
    It’s a strange kind of story. I have been all over Pigeon Mountain. It is hollow inside and contains many things, some seen by very few eyes.

    • Yes, and my gut feeling is that it will blow one day. Someone needs to be paying more attention to those tremblers underneath it.

      There are supposed to be diamonds in some volcanic tubes at Pigeon Mountain. The Spanish bought diamonds from the folks at Copal (Track Rock Gap) which they mined from the extinct caldera that they were living on.


    Are you a geologist now? What geological process can you cite to confirm the formation here? Gut feelings about blowing volcanos, you can’t script it better then that!

    • Actually, architects and structural engineers must have extensive knowledge of geology, which we must prove on our national licensing exams or not pass. Sorry, your sarcasm didn’t pan out. It is not just earthquakes that concern us, but also underground caves, groundwater and seasonal movements of soil. Perhaps all anthropology students should be required to take a course in “What other professionals know that you don’t know”. That would end the sophomoric arrogance that pervades them today.

      As for Pigeon Mountain, that’s a good question. The Pigeon Mountain Volcano experienced a moderate eruption for a month during 1857. It blew out flames, gas, smoke and rocks. Once can still see the rocks. People living in the region heard repeated loud explosions. The USGS has studied the cave systems in the Pigeon Mountain Range, but has not been able to explain the constant tremblers under and near the mountain. As a precaution though, the USGS designated NW Georgia Level 2 and 3 tectonic zones in regard to the structural requirements of the International Building Code.


    With the plumes/supposed brush fires in the area happening now, could they actually erupting now? They haven’t show any real video of the supposed flames.

    • I saw flames in the North Carolina forest fires. The Georgia volcano last erupted in 1856.


    Sorry, this makes a fun a story, but I don’t believe a word of it. There’s a good reason the geologists weren’t aware of the volcanoes–they don’t exist. Geologically, what you are claiming makes no sense. The Vulcan quarry is mining LIMESTONE, a sedimentary rock, from the side of your “volcano.” The “extinct caldera” is called The Pocket, and it too is formed of sedimentary rocks.

    • Have you ever been in the Pigeon Mountain Range? It sits on top of a fault line. There are soapstone boulders all around the crater. Soapstone is metamorphic pumice. The New York Times article is wrong on one accord. Pigeon Mountain is near Chattanooga, not Augusta

      Pigeon Mountain volcano, Georgia
      The New York Times, June 20, 1857

      A Volcano in Georgia.
      A writer in the Sentinel states that a volcano has lately made its appearance in Pigeon mountain, about ten miles from Augusta. On the 24th, ult., the mountain was violently agitated, and the citizens in the vicinity were aroused and terribly frightened by the commotion. When observing the mountain they were more than ever terrified, for a brilliant light was plainly seen issuing from the summit. The atmosphere soon became strongly impregnated with a disagreeable sulphuric odor. On the following day a thick torrent of smoke and ashes ascended from where this light was previously seen. No blaze has yet been seen to issue from the crater. It had continued up to the 29th ultimo about as above described, emitting smoke and ashes without intermission. The crater is thought to be about 100 yards in diameter. No one has yet ventured near enough to ascertain anything of its general depth.

      Several springs in the vicinity have totally disappeared. Many of the citizens are very much alarmed, and some even are moving out of the valley, through anticipation and fear of a violent eruption. The writer states that the principle of a volcano has for many years been germinating in Pigeon mountain. About ten miles south from where the present appeared, is the crater of an extinguished volcano, which appears to have been in an active state at no very distant period.

      Every appearance goes to vindicate the conjecture that it has been in a state of eruption within less than five hundred years. Several persons of credit have stated that in the Winter of ’48 or ’49, the earth in the vicinity was in a remarkabley warm state. Others have avowed to have seen smoke with a sulphuric smell issue from a very remarkable cavity which is found in the neighborhood of the place.


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