Table Rock Lake

Rocks & Fossils

by Joshua Heston

These Ozark hills are old. Older than we can really imagine, I think.

Smart folks tell us the Ozarks were sitting here, weathering away before the Rockies were pushed up to their own majestic heights.

It is both a curse and blessing. Rich farmland the Ozarks aren’t. “It’s hard to make a living in a pile of rocks,” says more than one Ozarker.

But in the end, it never was rich farmland that drew folks to these hills. And the rocks have something of a personality of their own. Weathered. Ancient. Lingering.

But also easy to overlook. To take for granted.

This section of StateoftheOzarks is dedicated to the geology of the hills.

And to every little kid who ever walked out of an Ozarks curio shop with an Arkansas diamond in his hand.

From The Bodacious Ozarks

by Charles Morrow Wilson

Geological evidence suggests that the Ozarks began as a towering mountain range, the inaccessibly tall Himalayas of an era perhaps hundreds of millions of years ago, and that rivers and perhaps other erosive forces wore down those vast mountains and remade them into a plateau which may have covered as much as a third of the present U.S.A.

In time the great central plateau was covered by seas, presumably impounded by the explosive uprising of younger mountain ranges to east and west.

In any case, the sea beds were spilled over with vast deposits of silts and sands and filled in farther by shells and bony residues of marine lives.

Then, apparently, the bed of the great sea was again raised or blasted up into another range of tall and faulted mountains.

Again these cloud scrapers were worn down by erosion to far-stretching and swampy flatlands. These inaccessible mires were once more raised explosively and shaped into considerably smaller but very tall mountains.

These in turn and in millions of years time, were worn down to the general dimensions and contours of the present-day Ozarks plateau or uplift.

The geological remoteness which had persisted through eons of earthly time appeared to remain a heritage of what eventually became the human population of the Ozarks.

Respected archeologists are disposed to agree that the first Ozarks people were of the Toltec Indian civilization.

For one reason or another, the Toltecs settled only the southern and western fringes of the plateau.

— pages 1-2, Wilson, Charles Morrow, The Bodacious Ozarks: True Tales of the Backhills, Pelican Publishing Company, 1959.

Plate 1 Great blocks of crumbling dolomite litter the mountainside near Greer Spring on the Eleven Point River, Oregon County, Missouri. February 19, 2009.

George Kieffer Artwork

Plate 2. Bauxite.

George Kieffer Artwork

Plate 3. Crinoid.

George Kieffer Artwork

Plate 3. Iron Pyrite (Fool’s Gold).

George Kieffer Artwork

Plate 3. Quartz Crystal (Arkansas Diamond).

...Arkansas diamonds

And while there are real diamonds found in Arkansas, those aren’t really the ones I’ve been thinking about.

To me, an “Arkansas diamond” will always be the cheap, faceted quartz crystals in the curio shops — curio shops that used to be easy to find all along good old Highway 65 as it snaked its way over the ridges down toward Little Rock.

I was less than five years old the first time I traveled through the Ozarks. I remember it pretty doggoned well, too. There were the roadside stands for peaches. And the really tall bridge that crossed Highway 65 right at Branson — that would be Cliff Drive Bridge.

There were big chunks of blue glass on tables and exciting-looking rivers. Oh, and there were legal fireworks.

But of everything I loved from that trip, it was my Arkansas diamond that meant the most. It was the coolest, neatest thing — a bit of clear quartz, looking for all the world like a real diamond of some sort.

In a way, it seemed to sum up all the mysteries of this old earth. And of these old mountains. Of stories of deep, dark caves and buried treasure and green forests. It’s the stuff little boys’ adventures are made of, I think.

The Ozarks in the summertime.

— from June 6, 2010 State of the Ozarks Weekly Issue 134

George Kieffer Artwork

Plate 3. Satin Spar.

George Kieffer Artwork

Plate 3. Wavelite.

chinkapin oak

Natural Heritage

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