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January-February 2011

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Media Reviews: January/February 2011

Geology Underfoot in Yosemite National Park by Allen F. Glazner and Greg M. Stock. Mountain Press Publishing, PO Box 2399, Missoula, MT 59806. 300 pages; 2010; $24 plus shipping and handling (softbound).

Perhaps no other place in America boasts the breathtaking cliffs, waterfalls, and general scenic splendor that grace California's Yosemite National Park. Although most visitors are aware that geologic processes—both surface and subsurface, current and ancient—have worked together to mold what they are enjoying, it has been relatively difficult to obtain concise and accurate information about the specific geology of the park's many special sites as well as the park as a whole. Now, however, with the publication of Geology Underfoot in Yosemite National Park, those special secrets of Mother Nature are clearly identified and described. This is accomplished in a most interesting manner, in part by the use of recent natural events and specific instructive sites to illustrate one or more formative processes.

The book opens with a short preface that is followed by a 40-page introduction. This chapter briefly describes some of the fundamental geologic processes responsible for many of the park's geomorphic features, including sections on glaciers, and rivers and streams, as well as an introduction to geologic study and the park's general geologic “backdrop.”

The bulk of the book is contained in the next twenty-five interesting chapters, each relating to fundamental park geology, specialized activities, unusual places, natural events, and in one case mineral exploitation. The first chapter, “Bones of the Earth,” describes the bedrock of Yosemite including specifics about granite and granodiorite. This is followed by a most interesting section on geologic features related to rock climbing. Next come two chapters on waterfalls, one on Yosemite Falls and the next on Vernal and Nevada falls. The 1996 and 1982 rockfalls are treated in individual short chapters that are followed by a discussion of earthquakes and rock avalanches in Yosemite Valley. The next chapter discusses the role of water in sculpting Yosemite, focusing in part on the flood of 1997. The impact of glacial activity is discussed primarily in chapters 9, 13, 14, and 24, and volcanic activity and its features, such as Little Devils Postpile and the Stanislaus Table Mountain lava flow, are discussed in chapters 18 and 20, respectively. Metamorphic rocks are found in chapters 17 and 19, which deal with May Lake and the park's western approaches, respectively. Domes, their formation, and related structural features are found in chapters 10, 11, and 12. Other sections discuss such phenomena as Mono Lake and ancestral Lake Russell, Mono Lake's Black Point, the effects of Eocene erosion, the great medieval megadrought, and Soda Springs. The final chapter, “Dreams of Silver,” briefly describes the mines of Bennettville and Dana Village. The work closes with a glossary that includes most of the geologic terms used in the book, a compilation of sources of additional information categorized by specific major topics and chapters, and an index.

In addition to being clearly written and well edited, another strength of this book lies in its illustrations. Color photographs abound, and for those not yet having visited Yosemite, they supply an excellent feel for the sites described. Each chapter begins with a section titled “Getting There” and includes a good map and description of how to access many of the locations described in the following paragraphs. In addition to photographs and maps, good use has also been made of graphical data and tables.

Geology Underfoot has been prepared as an educated layman's sourcebook for understanding Yosemite through the application of geologic principles to its many unique sites. The mission has been admirably accomplished, and the book should be required reading for all contemplating a visit to this park, one of our nation's greatest. After all, why leave with a few fuzzy memories of pretty places when, with only a little more effort, your visit can be transformed into a valuable educational experience through the use of this handy guide.

Robert B. Cook
  Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama

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