Geology at National Capital Parks – East:
The entire Potomac River Valley is rich in archeological resources that document the human habitation of the area for the past 10,000 years. The geology of the area has always attracted people to its vast natural resources. Ancient people came to use the unique stones found there for tool making, including chert and metarhyolite, establishing base camps and processing sites in several locations. The river provided Algonquin Native Americans and other tribes with a concentration of fish, game, and abundant plant species as well as wood, stone, shell, and bones necessary for tools and trade.
Geology played a vital role in early European settlement success. In the area around Washington, D.C., the local rivers supported local trade, developed the fertile floodplains, and provided resources for the inhabitants. Forests were cleared for settlements and agriculture but poor land use practices led to erosion and eventually stripped the soils of nutrients. Many areas were left barren and exposed to intense erosion.
The geology included placement of the local river crossings and fords. Early railroads and roads often followed the trends of natural geologic features. The interconnection between geology and history is often overlooked, but many features of the National Capital Parks – East remind us of how important the role of geology can be in the history of an area. Geologic processes gave rise to rock formations, hills, and valleys. The results of these processes played a prominent role in the history of the entire Potomac River Valley and Washington, D.C. They develop a landscape that welcomes or discourages use. Throughout history, humans have significantly modified he landscape surrounding the parks as well as the geologic system of the area.
Greenbelt Park is one of the units in the National Capital Parks – East. It covers more than 1,176 acres in Maryland as a haven of natural beauty in Prince George’s County. It was acquired and designated as a national park in August 1950. The entire park is located within the Atlantic Coastal Plain physiographic province within in the western shore uplands region. Landforms within the park are rolling to steep hills with ravines associated with two creeks. Elevation ranges in the park are from 25 to 200 feet.
The General park map handed out at the visitor center is available on the park's map webpage.For information about topographic maps, geologic maps, and geologic data sets, please see the geologic maps page.
A geology photo album has not been prepared for this park.For information on other photo collections featuring National Park geology, please see the Image Sources page.
Currently, we do not have a listing for a park-specific geoscience book. The park's geology may be described in regional or state geology texts.
Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments & Seashores.
Lillie, Robert J., 2005.
W.W. Norton and Company.
9" x 10.75", paperback, 550 pages, full color throughout
The spectacular geology in our national parks provides the answers to many questions about the Earth. The answers can be appreciated through plate tectonics, an exciting way to understand the ongoing natural processes that sculpt our landscape. Parks and Plates is a visual and scientific voyage of discovery!
Ordering from your National Park Cooperative Associations' bookstores helps to support programs in the parks. Please visit the bookstore locator for park books and much more.
For information about permits that are required for conducting geologic research activities in National Parks, see the Permits Information page.
The NPS maintains a searchable data base of research needs that have been identified by parks.
A bibliography of geologic references is being prepared for each park through the Geologic Resources Evaluation Program (GRE). Please see the GRE website for more information and contacts.
NPS Geology and Soils PartnersAssociation of American State Geologists
Geological Society of America
Natural Resource Conservation Service - Soils
U.S. Geological Survey
General information about the park's education and intrepretive programs is available on the park's education webpage.For resources and information on teaching geology using National Park examples, see the Students & Teachers pages.