Whence These Special Places? The Geology of Cashiers, Highlands & Panthertown Valley

Bill Jacobs event is September 6

Whence These Special Places? The Geology of Cashiers, Highlands & Panthertown Valley

Author and amateur geologist Bill Jacobs offers an enlightening FREE program about the geology of Highlands, Cashiers and Panthertown Valley. How did Whiteside Mountain come to be? Why is our plateau here? Mr. Jacobs will explain this and much more in this fascinating talk about the geology of our local area. His newly-published book will be available for purchase and signing at this free program hosted by Friends of Panthertown at the Albert Carlton – Cashiers Community Library.

This book presents the geology of the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau of Western North Carolina. Using everyday language and over 100 photographs and graphics, it explores how the region’s mountains, waterfalls and other special features formed, and how geology has created both their similarities and their differences.

Panthertown Valley is home to more than a dozen featured Special Places listed in the book.

Reflecting Bill’s interest in Earth Sciences in the local schools, special pricing will be available for Blue Ridge and Summit students and staff.

The book will be available at the event (with $5 of each sale going to Friends of Panthertown). It can also be purchased at City Lights Bookstore, Cornucopia, Highland Hiker, and Zoller’s Hardware, as well as at www.GreatRockPress.com.

About Whence These Special Places?

Cashiers, Highlands and Panthertown Valley are part of a high-elevation area known as the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau. Located in southwestern North Carolina, the Plateau is unique not just for its elevation, but also for its soaring walls of bare rock, numerous waterfalls, and grand vistas. Whence These Special Places? explores the geology that has produced this special area at this particular point in the Earth’s 4.6 billion-year history.

While solidly grounded in science, the book is written for the non-scientist, using everyday language and concepts. Its large format was chosen to better display over 100 photographs, each selected both for its beauty and its power in explaining the geology.

It is difficult to live on or visit the Plateau without wondering about its physical features — Why are its valleys so high (and the roads up to them so steep and curvy)? Why do Dry, Bridal Veil and Schoolhouse Falls have sheer drops, while Granny Burrell Falls and Warden’s Falls are smoothly rounded? How did those great rock walls come to be? Why does Whiteside Mountain have a different shape than Bald Rock, and why is Rock Mountain rounded while its close neighbor Chimneytop has a pointy summit?

To explore these questions, Whence These Special Places? opens by discussing 500 million years of geologic processes that have produced the broader area we call the Blue Ridge. As the narrative comes forward, it focuses on processes that make the Plateau unique, including its numerous plutonic intrusions and the erosion patterns that have shaped the modern landscape.

The second half of the book is devoted to applying the principles thus developed to more than 60 individual Special Places — the mountains, waterfalls and other features that have been known and loved by generations of the Plateau’s settlers, residents and visitors. In each case, the author identifies the underlying geology that makes a particular feature similar to or different from its neighbors. The discussion is informed not just by more than a century of academic work by dedicated geologists, but also by the author’s personal field trips to each feature. In a number of cases, his field work identified previously unmapped geologic relationships that he believes are important in understanding the nature and shape of particular Special Places.

Whence These Special Places? will serve in different ways for different readers at different times. It is a highly readable treatise on the geology of the Blue Ridge and the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau. It is also a field guide that will enrich visits to the Plateau’s waterfalls and mountain trails. And when at rest between such uses, it will serve as a photographic compendium of the region’s spectacular natural features, suitable for the coffee table of any mountain home.



“The Highlands and Cashiers region is not only stunning but the geology is fascinating. The localities featured in this book are noteworthy, and I think the book’s accessible geologic perspective will make them even more interesting and enjoyable to visit.” – Dr. Jackie Langille, Associate Professor of Earth Sciences, Department of Environmental Studies, UNC Asheville

“I agree with Bill that “whence” is indeed a concise word for the myriad of questions surrounding the striking geologic features of the Plateau. He describes the geologic history of the Southern Appalachians in easy-to-digest language with little sacrifice of detail or higher-level scientific reasoning. His admiration of these places, along with their sources and causes, highlights just how special they are to individuals as well as to cultural and geologic history.” – Dr. Brittani D. McNamee, Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences, Department of Environmental Studies, UNC Asheville

“I thought I understood the geology of the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau, but Bill Jacobs’ readable and entertaining geologic tour of the Plateau and many of its unique sites has given me a much deeper and better understanding of the processes that shaped our wonderful places here in the mountains of North Carolina.” – Dr. Gary Wein, Executive Director, Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust

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