South Mountain State Park

South  Mountain State ParkBecause of its low altitude, South Mountain State Park is a prime year-round destination, except maybe in the heart of the summer. Though the highest point is about 3,000 ft., when you’re looking down into a valley 2,000 ft below, you can feel on top of the local world. The wind whistling through the pines, the ridge vistas, the tumbling water give you the same rush as higher altitudes. The state park has cut trees to open up views and even arranged logs for low benches. White-tail deer, not usually seen at the higher elevations, is abundant here.    
    Walking down High Shoals Falls can get any hiker interested in geology. Water travels through the park toward the Catawba River and cuts deep into the land, forming steep slopes. Rock slabs moved down the slope and piled up at the base. They have broken off by the process of exfoliation, a type of weathering that occurs in rocks which have uniform texture. Think of exfoliating the skin to make it smoother. As a layer is peeled off, like peeling off an onion, the underlying rock expands upward. Cracks form and eventually the rock break off along these cracks.
    As you come down the staircase, you’ll find large slabs of rocks with vertical fractures called joints. These fractures get wider when water seeps in and freezes. Plant roots make their way into cracks and expand the rock. Flowing water also encourages joints to widen. Every once in a while, a block of rock separates from the cliff along one of the joints and tumbles down. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo dumped a great deal of rain in South Mountain State Park. Many loose rocks slid off at once, resulting in the Hugo landslide.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *