CULLASAJA FALLS, NORTH CAROLINA

Delamination Beneath the Appalachian Mountains
Renewed Growth of Mountains

Of the tens of thousands of waterfalls in North America—and thousands are more picturesque—Cullasaja Falls in North Carolina is of special note because its existence says something special about the way that mountains are built.

Waterfalls are an indicator of dynamic geology. Niagara Falls and the other hundred or so falls along the Niagara Escarpment, such as Albion Falls near Hamilton, is a reminder of colossal forces that gave rise to the Michigan Basin. Taylor Falls and Big Maitou Falls in Minnesota are a record the vast eruption of lava from the Midcontinent Rift a billion years ago. Multnomah Falls in Oregon, where water drops more than six hundred feet, and the other waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge, exist because the landscape was scoured repeatedly by tremendous floods of water a mere 12,000 years ago.

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Multnomah Falls, Oregon.

Cullasaja Falls in North Carolina, which is a long cascade that drops 250 feet, exists because the surface of the Earth has risen recently, forming the southern Appalachians and prominent features such as the Blue Ridge Escarpment and the Fall Line that runs from New Jersey to Alabama.

 

And the cause of this recent uplift—and the reason the Appalachians are still substantial terrain—is the delamination—or separation—of the lower part of the North America tectonic plate and its foundering down in a hot mantle. 

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Albion Falls, Ontario. (Photo by Joe de Sousa)

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Cullasaja Falls, North Carolina.