Geology

Photo: Boys look at limestone cliffThe Whitewater River has cut the Whitewater Gorge in an ancient limestone and shale layer named the Whitewater Formation. Most of the recognizable fossils in the Whitewater Formation are from skeletons of animals that lived about 435 million years ago on the bottom of a warm shallow sea that covered the area.

Fossiliferous limestone of the Ordovician Period is 425 Million years old in the Whitewater Gorge, and is one of only two places in the United States where this type of limestone is exposed to the surface. The abundant fossils in the rocks of the Gorge have attracted Paleontologists and amateur collectors to the area for over one hundred years.

As the last Ice Age drew to a close and the Wisconsin glaciers began melting back from the Wayne County area eighteen to twenty thousand years ago, one huge lobe of ice lingered in the valley of the East Fork of the Whitewater River. Geologists tell us this vast mound of ice produced a raging flood of water as it melted over a period of years. The flood was so powerful in summer that along one of its paths it cut a narrow channel scores of feet deep right into the ancient bedrock. Today that channel is known as the Whitewater River Gorge. Visit our page, the Whitewater Valley Gorge Park, for more geological details, history, and hiking information.

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Did You Know?

The highest point in Indiana is located in Wayne County, northwest of Bethel. At 1,257 feet, it is known as “Hoosier Hill”, but that title is a bit ironic.