West Virginia


Geological State Symbols Across America  Geology of the National Parks Through Pictures

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West Virginia State Geological Symbols
Year Est.
State Rock
Bituminous Coal
State Gem
Fossil Coral
State Fossil
Megalonyx jeffersonii


State Rock: Bituminous Coal

Coal is a type of sedimentary rock that has a very high organic content. It is made up of prehistoric plant material that has slowly been compressed over time forming thin layers ranging from millimetres to several tens of meters thick. The large amount of plant material typically occurred in prehistoric swamps. Over time the plant material died and accumulated in the water. There was so much dead plant material in the water that there wasn't enough oxygen to cause plant decay, leaving the plant material behind to eventually be covered up by sediment as the swamp was slowly transformed into a different environment (i.e. beach, floodplain, lagoon, etc.). Coal is typically composed of mostly all carbon (50-98%), hydrogen (3-13%), and oxygen, with varying amounts of nitrogen, sulphur, and other elements. Because of the high organic content, coal is an ideal combustible and has been used for centuries as a heat and fuel source. There is a range of types of coal depending on how long the plant material has been "cooked", a process that involves compaction of the plant material, how high the temperature had gotten, and how long it was heated for. The type of coal also depends on the original plant materials that had been compacted to form the coal. By degree of cooking the ranks of coal are: peat (essentially pre-coal), lignite (brown coal, low temperature cook, carbon content 60-70%), bituminous ("soft coal" and the most abundant, has a higher temp of cooking, 71-87% carbon), and anthracite (technically a metamorphic variety of coal that has >87% carbon, considered "hard coal").

State Gem: Fossil Coral

Coral is an invertebrate animal that belongs to the group Cnidaria. Cnidaria also includes the well known jelly fish and sea anemones. Corals are a sessile organism, meaning that they live most of their life in one location, mainly rooted to the ocean floor. The coral animal, called a polyp, is a tiny organism that secrets a calcium carbonate "shell" around itself, like a clam. The accumulations of many of these shells is what most people think of when they think of coral. Neighboring polyps also secrete a shell and attached themselves to other polyp shells. This creates an apartment building type complex with tiny animals, each about the size of a nickle, living within each shell all attached to one another. Over time the animals die and new corals attach to the upper surfaces creating new structures. The coral animals themselves actually form a symbiosis with an algae called a zooxanthellae, where the algae creates the food from the sunshine and the corals eat the food. The corals then provide the algae with protection within their shell. Corals are generally found within fairly shallow and warm waters. These waters allow many corals to grow and the algae to create food. Over time the coral skeletons/shells can eventually build up and form a reef.


Related: Florida State Stone - Agatized Coral; Hawaii State Gem - Black Coral; West Virginia State Gem - Fossil Coral

State Fossil: Megalonyx jeffersonii




Geology of West Virginia's National Parks

Through Pictures

(at least the one's I have been to)

Bluestone National Scenic River

Gauley River National Recreation Area

New River Gorge National River


Bluestone National Scenic River

Visited in 2001


Bluestone NSR Deer

Some deer on the side of the road

Gauley River National Recreation Area

Visited in 2003



New River Gorge National River

Visited with in 2001



Veronica walking across a stream


New River side waterfall

Me standing under a waterfall


The New River

The New River


 View of the New River

View up the New River


Misty Morning

Dawn across the valley


New River side waterfall

Another waterfall