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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.

Caldera

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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.

26 Comments

  1. justawriter22@gmail.com'

    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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
      • obie.beal@hotmail.com'

        2018 and dormant volcanoes all over the world are cumming to life. ‘Mother Earth’ has the ability to trump science quicker than one can blink their eye. i pray it do not blow, never-the-less ‘Mother Earth’ is doing her own thing, even in North Georgia. Mt. Saint Helen surprised someone….

        Reply
        • You have the same name as my grandfather. It is quite unusual these days. We probably won’t see any significant tectonic activity in North Georgia and Western North Carolina until the Charleston, SC fault is about to cause an earthquake. That’s what happened last time.

          Reply
    • ivorytofu@hotmail.com'

      Douglas you are so wrong about Pigeon Mt. there are 3 volcanoes 1 is dormant and 2 extinct. This info is even on the USGS website.

      Reply
      • Stact, the USGS website DOES list newspaper articles from the 1800s about strange volcano-like activities in western North Carolina, Northwest Georgia, North Central Georgia (Track Rock Gap) and the Florida Panhandle during the 1800s. All of these sites last erupted during the Charleston Earthquake in 1886. One of the eruptions caused a 1000 feet long gash in the side of a mountain near Franklin, NC. There have also been reports during the past five years of strange explosions in the higher peaks of the Cohutta Mountain Range in NW Georgia . . . when there were blue skies so lightning could not be the culprit. There were certainly NO fraudsters behind these newspaper articles as Mr. Carson repeatedly states. There were many, many credible witnesses to these eruptions. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wakulla_Volcano

        In response to the cluster of eruptions in 1886, Thomas Clingman studied the sites in North Carolina and North Georgia then made a report to a meeting of scientists in New York City, sponsored by George Heye of the Heye Foundation. Clingman determined that only super-heated gases and solid rocks were expelled by these eruptions. There was no evidence of magma, pumice, soapstone or talc at any of the sites. however, there are talc deposits about 12 miles east of Pigeon Mountains. The Wakulla Volcano did spew forth superheated mud. Earlier eyewitnesses and Clingman himself described a sulfur smell coming from the dormant fumaroles. This suggests that the causative agent is super-heated sulfuric acid. Such a toxic gas would quickly eat holes through the sedimentary rock strata.

        Gaseous volcanic craters in sedimentary rock strata are well-documented in other parts of the world. There are quite a few dormant or extinct ones in northern Tabasco State, Mexico. A massive one was recently discovered in Zaire. They are not volcanoes in the sense of one that spews lava and pumice . . . more like industrial strength geysers . . . but can be extremely dangerous. The cones were created by rocks spit out of the earth by superheated gasess combined with r It is obvious that since all of these gas volcano sites, including the fumarole at Track Rock Gap, last erupted during the Charleston Earthquake, they are obviously tectonic phenomena.

        There are many people very concerned about the continuing quarry operation at Pigeon Mountain. In 1999, the sudden emptying of a large lake near Rome, GA was traced to the quarrying activities at Pigeon Mountain. Nothing was done, because Vulcan Materials hired a geologist to refute the findings of the professors, hired by the City of Rome. I would be curious to learn the identity of their consulting geologist. Whatever the case, as an architect I can tell you for a fact that Pigeon Mountain is now in a seismic zone and any new construction in NW Georgia must now have earthquake loads calculated into their structural design.

        Reply
    • That was a tacky comment . . . the editor. I assume that Douglas knows that Paraguay is a country in South America. Mr. Trump stated in a speech to the OAS that Paraguay was an island in the Pacific, captured by the US Marines from the Japanese, after great blood sacrifice. As you will learn in my response to your first tacky comment, gaseous volcanoes in sedimentary rock zones have different characteristics than the more dramatic eruptions of lava in igneous rock zones.

      Reply
  2. zztop12@yahoo.com'

    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!

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
      • B.MichelleSmith1001@GMAIl.com'

        I have had a love of outdoors and all that makes it what it is for as long as I can remember. After years of being involved with friends that hunt relics and the sort I have realized I tend to have a habit of picking up rocks and objects that are strange or questionable and have a huge assortment of strange findings that I try to find a logical explanation for or learn as much as I can about it. But like you I also feel that there is a history of more volcanic events or something to that effect than is told in geography class. I have seen what looks to me like evidence of it many times over the years. There is not an abundance of it like I would assume there would be but there might be other explanations for that. I believe I have come across evidence of some event of volcanic nature or something that leaves some of the same evidence behind. Can you tell me of other events that may leave a small crater about 20 ft in diameter on a large hill on the outskirts of the mountainous range that would leave behind magma type rocks in various forms, volcanic like glass, impactite type rocks, lots of mineralization, fossils nearby that seem to be fish coral and other specimens I can’t identify due to erosion and replacement, and other material and findings like these? I am not a professional in any sense but I am very intrigued and have been doing relentless research and just can’t find much of anything on the subject for this area. If you have any more knowledge or even theories on this I would love to hear them or if you have any suggestions for me as to where to look for this information that also would be greatly appreciated. And like I stated already I am not a professional nor do I want to give that impression. I am only a person that tries to apply myself in areas of interest and stay open and eager to always learn more. Thank you.

        Reply
        • There is an ancient line of volcanoes that run across North Georgia. Their cones are highly eroded. Recently, recently I read that geologists now believe that a continental plate overran an ancient of volcanic islands, which are now deep below the surface of Georgia. During the Colonial Period, the Creek Indians observed several locations in North Georgia, in which the mountain made a “drumming sound” or rumbled like thunder then occasionally emitted red hot smoke and exploded boulders. My original article was merely a summary of two webpages on the USGS website on the evidence of possible volcanoes in the 1800s in Georgia and western North Carolina . . . for which I was eventually awarded several pejoratives, most notably the label fraudster. Further research revealed that Thomas Clingman has researched the “volcanoes” and “cataracts” in the mountains of North Carolina and Georgia, plus the Panhandle of Florida. All were in regions of sedimentary and metamorphosed sedimentary rock. He theorized that they were gas volcanoes created by the heat of friction within a fault line. An alternative explanation can be seen in Mexico today. Volcanoes near the boundary between igneous and sedimentary rocks will create lava tunnels and fumaroles through sedimentary rock and then erupt through the sedimentary rock.

          Reply
  3. sweetsouthernbellstar@gmail.com'

    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.

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

      Reply
  4. rling@stationr.org'

    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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
      • For your information jackass, I got the information from a serious geology website, which was pondering the cause of two mini-volcanoes, both in sedimentary regions, one in NW Florida (Wakulla) and the other in NW Georgia, which occurred simultaneously with the Charleston, SC earthquake. Simultaneously, the extinct fumarole on Buzzards Roost Mountain in Union County, GA emitted smoke that smelled like sulfur. Theoretically, such things are impossible in sedimentary regions, but Buzzard Roost is the remnants of an ancient volcano. Since 1886, none of these three phenomenons have emitted smoke or fumes.

        There are no mountains near Augusta. The only Pigeon Mountain in Georgia is the one near Lafayette. I have done some research. What may have caused the mini-eruption was water trickling down into super-heated rock strata. Steam volcanoes can throw rocks long distances and create craters. They may or may not have magma come out later.

        Reply
        • 40 years? you’re the mouthpiece for the geologist at the Fernbank Science Center, who didn’t even know that large diamonds have been found in North Georgia . . . of course, east of the Cartersville Fault

          Actually, I went hiking on Pigeon Mountain many a time while living in Rome and wondered why there were so many rounded boulders. Then when FEMA suddenly required us to use Zone 3 Earthquake design with Pigeon Mountain as its epicenter, I became real curious about the range. And of course, I know that Union County is another geological zone. I am an architect. There is something beneath the Pigeon Mountain range that is not typical. It is tied to a fault in coastal South Carolina. My guess is that there is a magma shaft underneath the sedimentary strata. Calcium carbonate decomposes at a much lower temperature than its melting point. Pottery with a calcium carbonate flux begins vitrifying at 1000 F and fully vitrifies when only cherry red. Thus, superheated air from a vent after having water drip down it for eons would have the same appearance as water decomposition. That is the only way that one can explain the Pigeon Mountain range being the only source of obsidian in Georgia, even though it is in a sedimentary zone.

          Reply
      • heliosgnosis@gmail.com'

        There must be some credit to be given to this story, how else do we find some much amethyst in this whole general area, including the best amethyst which comes from Western to Central South Carolina, it takes heat and pressure to do such things. Volcanic heat not friction heat by the way. But what do I know. I am just some guy on the internet stating a basic fact of the region in question.

        Reply
  5. Then why was there a minor eruption there in 1857? It is well documented in contemporary newspapers. Have you considered that the sedimentary rock overlays igneous rock? There are definitely a line of extinct volcanoes across North Georgia. A geological report stated that a chain of ancient volcanic islands, similar to the Hawaiian Islands were overridden by the plate the we see on the surface of North Georgia.

    Reply
    • rfindley@usa.net'

      When I first read your article I was intrigued but after looking through multiple Georgia state geological surveys I could find no mention of this. I belong to the NE Georgia Mineral Society and when I mentioned it to one of the members he said it didn’t sound right. However, I recently bought a book at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, GA, (they have an extensive mineral & rock exhibit, BTW) by the title of “Pamela J. Gore and William Witherspoon, Roadside Geology of Georgia (Missoula, Mont.: Mountain Press, 2013), which mentions “volcanic islands” in NW Georgia (specifically Lookout Mountain and Pigeon Mountain). I did a Google search of “Northwest Georgia USA volcanic islands” and found the following online article, http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/science-medicine/geologic-history-georgia-overview, from the Georgia State University Perimeter College which was originally published 01/07/06 and edited on 08/06/15. This article also makes mention of “volcanic islands” in NW Georgia. Thought it was interesting.

      Reply
      • Well that is what I was taught at Georgia Tech. We had to know what was under the ground, because it radically affects how you design the foundation.

        I lived in Cartersville for five years and was friends with the director of the former mineral museum.

        Reply
    • Tilong34@yahoo.com'

      Just what you may be looking for!

      Reply
    • This is Native American web site. We do not call each other pejorative names. There are plenty of white trash sites for you and Carson to display your lack of knowledge of geology with acidic verbiage. My original article was based on a collection of eyewitness accounts of several gaseous volcanoes in the Southeast, published on a USGS website – not personal observation of the eruptions. If you will read my recent summary of the report made by Thomas Clingman to the American Natural History Society in 1888, all of the gaseous “volcanoes” in the Lower Southeast erupted simultaneously immediately before and during the 1886 Charleston Earthquake. Since then, all have been dormant. Two of them in western North Carolina caused large fissures in the terrain. Clingman studied all the sites, including Pigeon Mountain and the one in the Florida Panhandle. The Track Rock Gap fumarole was the only gaseous volcano, which was NOT in region of either sedimentary or metamorphosed sedimentary rock strata. All the sites produced sulfurous super-heated smoke, but no lava. All of the sites, except the fumarole at Track Rock Gap in Georgia and the one in Florida, shot large rocks into the air. You can see those rocks today on the sites in western North Carolina and on the east side of Pigeon Mountain.

      Clingman concluded that these gaseous volcanoes were caused by active faults, whose frictional heat super-heated water that then, as it pushed to the surface came in contact with sulfur deposits, which then became sulfuric acid. The super-heated sulfuric acid dissolved limestone strata, releasing carbon dioxide under pressure, thus creating the force to form the same type landscape as seen in regions of igneous rocks – minus the lava. I have observed several gaseous “volcanoes” or fumaroles in the sedimentary coastal plain of southern Vera Cruz, Chiapas and Tabasco. They were created by volcanic vents from calderas and super-volcanoes in adjacent igneous rock zones pushing through sedimentary rocks. A large gaseous volcanic cone was recently discovered in Zaire, which is composed entirely of rocks and re-composed limestone shot out of the volcano – no lava. The appearance of the rocks is often like that of stalagmites in caves. The Wewokee “volcano” in Florida was actually described as being like a large stalagmite.

      Reply
  6. wizodd@gmail.com'

    I’d like some scales for the maps and some indication of what the heck I am looking at in the photo…LABELS!?

    Lots of interesting features in a small area.

    Reply
    • jtzulgarcia@yahoo.com'

      There is a volcano.
      You act like you lived there for the past thousands of years.
      You have no idea what’s underneath that mountain and idc if your ancestors have lived there for the past hundreds years. Idc if your part of the rescue team or go to the library. You can do all your research and you can live there your whole life but you’ll still be surprised.
      This world is full of mysterious.

      Reply
  7. Havesomemercy0@gmail.com'

    Richard, I for one agree with you. As for volcanic activity in the vicinity of sedimentary rock, there is another explanation. Underwater volcanism, sedimentation buildup, uplift and drainage of water. That’s how you get a mt, sedimentation and volcanic rocks in one area. So you are correct. In my region of northern maine, recent mining activity seem to verify such geologic formation. Lots of sedimentation, pockets of limestone, and remnants of volcanism. Geologists don’t have all the answers, as they are continually updating their knowledge on faultlines, and how forces travel through and around cratons. They have recently found magma chambers rising beneath western new england. And acadia park in maine was once a massive supervolcano. Who knows which volcanoes will be activated along with our ever increasing earthquakes.

    Reply

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