Some geological deposits of the plateau were formed in the sea, but the coal deposits were formed in the swamps that came later. There, the cataclysmic events had raised and tilted the strata but had not folded it. It was a hostile environment of volcanoes, wind and water. The land slipped and broke into narrow blocks that sank or tilted upward in long mountains.
All through the Mesozoic period and into the Cenozoic, the action of wind and water eroded the mountains of the plateau until the surface became almost level. Rivers in the plateau flowed westward to the interior.
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Those in the eastern sections found their way to the Atlantic Ocean. In late Cenozoic times, the Appalachian region continued its wild transformation. Mountains continued to rise and the constant uplift gave speed to rivers swollen by the heavy rains of the era. The rivers eroded the land, carving and dividing the great plain into a series of irregular hills and long ridges.
The rivers and streams of the Plateau Region were in a state of flux, often changed course, and traced an intricate network. The larger rivers of other regions remained true to their courses. And, since most of them flowed southeast to the sea, they often crossed the ridges and valleys, carving new channels, called water gaps.
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Their tributaries bypassed the great ridges of resistant rock. They flowed between them, cutting narrow, parallel valleys. The modern Appalachian Mountains are less than 25 million years old, the result of the final upheaval and erosion that took place late in the Cenozoic era.
The highest peaks are all that remain of the mountains formed more than million years ago in the Permian period. Today, the peaks, ridges, hills, and valleys of the highlands form a great natural belt almost 2, miles long and, in some places, up to miles wide. Introduction More than million years ago, as the Earth continued to cool and the plates to move, so the island moved slowly westward.
Scientists think they were once probably as high and steep as the Rocky Mountains, which were formed much later. The Appalachians have played a significant role in the history and development of the United States.
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They were the first great barrier faced by the early settlers. Coal from the Appalachians was the essential ingredient for the foundation of industrial development. And coal it was that made American manufacturing the most productive in the world. The Appalachians also furnished stone, oil, gas, timber and iron ore. And they provided necessary power when the tumbling rivers were harnessed to produce electricity. Today, the mountains offer unparalleled scenic beauty and plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation.
There are facilities for summer and winter sports; trails and parkways that serve hikers and motorists; national forests and parks, as well as numerous parks and historic sites. Botanists claim that this region is the original home of all modern-day Eastern vegetation. About species of trees have been found in the highlands.
Europe has fewer than These are known as balds, and are often covered with dense undergrowth, grass and shrubs. Some claim they are the result of ancient windfalls, some say the trees were destroyed by fires from which they never recovered, and still others claim the balds are the remains of ancient Indian campsites. In many areas the lower slopes of the mountains and the walls of deep ravines carved by rushing streams are blanketed by hundreds of acres of rhododendron, laurel, azalea, and myrtle.
In some places the growth is almost impenetrable. These areas are known as slicks, or hells. There are at least 30 different reptiles, including 19 species of snakes and nine lizards, and there are at least 46 amphibians. The mammal community includes black bears, wild hogs, whitetailed deer, foxes, bobcats and raccoons. The coyote is present in some areas, mainly in the Cherokee National Forest, and there are plans to reintroduce the red wolf into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The animal with the highest profile, and one you are likely to see in the forests of the Smokies, is the black bear.
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Hunted throughout the forests, except in the park, it keeps very much to itself, although it does sometimes stray from the cover of trees into populated areas where it forages for food in garbage cans. The wild boar or hog, found mostly in the Cherokee National Forest, is a wily creature.
It, too, is a popular prey for hunters. The Introduction The Appalachians have the largest virgin hardwood and red spruce forests in the United States, and there could be as many as 2, species of plant life.
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In the Smokies, many attain rates of growth found only in the rainforests of the tropical regions. Some tulip trees reach heights of almost feet, with diameters in excess of nine feet; one species of wild grapevine has been known to grow a main stem more than five feet in circumference, and some laurel shrubs grow more than 40 feet tall. It also competes with native wildlife for food; each adult will consume some 1, pounds of acorns a year, the principal source of food for much of the wildlife. Many would like to see the animal eliminated from the Smokies.
The white-tailed deer can be found throughout the Smokies, but is most plentiful in the Cherokee National Forest. Wild animals should not be a problem provided you stay away from them.
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Of the bigger and more exotic animals, only the black bear and the wild boar are really dangerous. To see a bear, even at a distance, is a rare thrill. To see one close up and angry is something else. The cubs are most delightful creatures, and will wander up to you, curious and playful. Be careful. Though rarely seen, wild boars are a fierce and ferocious adversary, apt to charge when cornered, intent on inflicting a nasty wound if he can. Somehow they identify with the brightly colored backpack, and will have no hesitation about raiding your pack if you leave it within easy reach.
Hang packs and food containers from a high branch, at least six feet off the ground, and make sure that the branch will not support the weight even of a small bear. Small animals, too, will invade your pack or food supply if you leave it lying on the ground. Always remember, the woods and forests are their home, not yours. You are the visitor. INSECTS The Smokies are home to all sorts of winged, crawling and stinging creatures, which are attracted to the flowers and foliage of the forests, rivers and lakes.
Wear a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt or blouse and pants along with your insect repellent and you should be okay. More annoying than dangerous are the deerflies that live in the forests; chiggers, the nasty little red bugs that inhabit dense bushy areas in summertime; and the ubiquitous horseflies that are especially prominent in the open woods and grasslands. Ticks Unfortunately, ticks are a fact of life here and some of them carry diseases.
Lyme disease is rapidly becoming a problem in the Smokies, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever has been around for a long time.
Both are carried by ticks, and both can have a devastating effect. Anyone venturing into heavily wooded areas should take the precautions listed below. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is the result of toxins secreted when an American dog tick — one of the family of wood ticks found in vast numbers here — bites you.
This fever can be fatal if not treated quickly. Lyme disease is a tick-borne viral infection for which there is no cure or vaccination. It need not, however, be fatal. A program of antibiotics will keep the disease in check until the immune system can build up antibodies to cope with it. The symptoms of Lyme disease are similar to many other illnesses: low-grade fever, fatigue, head and body pain. The tick bite itself may at first go unnoticed but, within a month of being bitten, a red rash will appear around the bite.
Sometimes the rash is a solid red, sometimes it has a brighter outer edge with little or no color in the middle. Although it can vary in size and even cover an entire arm or thigh, it usually is about four inches in diameter. Introduction tracted to you. Check with your doctor or pharmacist for any allergy medication or insect repellent you may need. The deer tick, which can carry Lyme disease, lives in wooded areas as well as on dogs.
You can decrease the chances of your pet carrying ticks by using a tick spray, dip, powder or a tick collar. Observe the following basic rules to reduce your chances of infection. Use repellents and tuck your pants into high socks to keep ticks from crawling under your clothes.
The deer tick is small, often no bigger than a large pinhead. If you find a tick attached to your skin, use fine-jawed tweezers and grip the tick as gently as you can, and as close to your skin as possible. There are many good repellents on the market.
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