Photograph of the Red Mountain road cut in Alabama.

Alabama Earth Science Quick Facts

Page snapshot: Alabama State Geologic MapFossil; Rock; Mineral; GemHighest and Lowest Elevations; Places to Visit; and Additional Resources.

Image above:The Silurian strata of Red Mountain are exposed along this roadcut on the Red Mountain Expressway, near Birmingham, Alabama. Learn more here. Photograph by Greg Willis (Wikimedia Commons; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license; image cropped and resized).

Geologic Map of Alabama


Geologic map of Alabama.

Geologic map of Alabama showing maximum ages of mappable units. Image by Jonathan R. Hendricks for the [email protected] project developed using QGIS and USGS data (public domain) from Fenneman and Johnson (1946) and Horton et al. (2017).

Alabama State Fossil: Basilosaurus cetoides

Basilosaurus was an ancient whale. Learn more about this ancient whale and its relatives here.


Photograph of a mounted skeleton of Basilosaurus cetoides.

An basilosaurid whale (Basilosaurus cetoides) from the Eocene of Alabama. Basilosaurus cetoides is the largest basilosaurid, reaching about 16 m (52.5 ft) long. Specimen on display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Photo of (USNM V4675) by the Smithsonian Institution (CC0/public domain).

Alabama State Rock: Marble

Also known as Sylacuaga marble, Alabama's marble has been called the "world's whitest" and has been used in sculpture and architecture throughout the United States for over 160 years. This metamorphic rock formed after limestone was put under immense pressure during the Taconic Orogeny.


Photograph of the Dimes Savings Bank in Brooklyn, New York, which is constructed from Sylacuaga Marble.

The exterior of the Dime Savings Bank in Brooklyn, New York is built from Alabama's Sylacuaga marble. Photograph by "Beyond My Ken" (Wikimedia Commons; Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license).

Alabama State Mineral: Hematite

Hematite, also called red iron ore, crystallizes from the reaction of dissolved iron and oxygen. Roughly 375 million tons of hematite were mined in central and eastern Alabama between 1840 and 1975.


Image

Sample of Silurian-aged red iron ore from New York. Samples of similar age and appearance are found in Alabama. Photograph by James St. John (Flickr; Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license; image resized).

Alabama State Gem: Star Blue Quartz

Although quartz is a common silicate mineral, star blue quartz has an uncommon color derived from the presence of amphibole within the crystal structure. This stone occasionally exhibits asterism, or the reflection of a star-like shape when polished.

Alabama's Highest and Lowest Elevations

Highest Elevation: Cheaha Mountain

Alabama's highest point is Cheaha Mountain, a 735-meter-high (2413-foot-high) mountain in the Talladega Mountains, the southernmost segment of the Blue Ridge. Thanks to its tall relief, today the mountain is host to a variety of radio antennas and TV transmitters.


Photograph of Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in Alabama.

Photograph of Cheaha Mountain, the highest point in Alabama. Photograph by Skye Marthaler (Wikimedia Commons; Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license).


Lowest Elevation: Gulf of Mexico Shoreline

The state's lowest point is the shore of the Gulf of Mexico, which lies at sea level.

Image

Gulf Shores, Alabama. Photograph by "faungg" (Flickr; Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license).

Places to Visit


Alabama Museum of Natural History

Tuscaloosa, Alabama.


Visit website
Photograph of fossils on display inside the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

Inside the Alabama Museum of Natural History. Photograph by Michael Dressler (Flickr; Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license).


McWane Science Center

Birmingham, Alabama.


Visit website
Photograph of the skeleton of the dinosaur Appalachiosaurus on display at the McWane Science Center.

The dinosaur Appalachiosaurus on display at the McWane Science Center. Photograph by Ralph Daily (Flickr; Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

Additional resources


Learn more about the Earth science of Alabama and the surrounding region on [email protected]


Explore
Simple map of the southeastern United States showing the boundaries of the Inland Basin, Coastal Plain, and Blue Ridge and Piedmont regions.

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