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The Mohawk Valley and Finger Lakes

Photos and links from a day's drive through New York's geologic heartland

I had a day to drive around central New York during the foliage season, in October 2001. Here are some photos and notes from that memorable day. My route took me from Albany up US 20 along the Mohawk River Valley, then westward into the Finger Lakes. From Ithaca, at the south end of Cayuga Lake, I turned east again traversing the northernmost edge of the Allegheny Plateau back to Albany.

But first let's contemplate this set of fossil ripples from my brother's back yard near Albany. He pulled it from his streambed, where it washed down from the nearby Helderberg Escarpment. Once it was a set of ripples on a shore of fine sand, near an active mountain range to the east formed by a distant clash of crustal plates. Central and western New York was covered by shallow seas for most of Paleozoic time, between 500 and 300 million years ago.


(c) Copyright 2002 Andrew Alden, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Almost nothing remains from the years after that. The most recent million years of geologic history is the Ice Ages, which left deep marks on the landscape. The whole region you'll see in this series was once covered by a kilometer or more of ice.

Let me show you some of the things I saw.

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