Guides, Books, Maps

This page contains links to field guides and geologic maps of Washington and southwest British Columbia. I will periodically update the page with new links and references to other sources. Please submit information about books or online guides you know about. Send links and suggestions to [cut and paste- not a live link].

You may find some of these in public or university libraries; others are available only by purchase.  The initial guides listed are all published books. I hope to list more informal free or low-cost field guides available on the web, too. I’ll add new items to the top of the heap- it could get messy with time. Web searches will often turn up unpublished ‘gray literature’  from University classes, geological meetings, or on other websites to specific places. Please send your favorites to this website by sending a comment. If you send a published field guide that is in an area library, please so state.  If there is a website where the guide can be found, or purchased, be sure to include that, too. If the library where you live has one of the books already listed, let me know, I’ll make note of that, unless it gets too cumbersome.


Ned Brown's Geology of the San Juan Islands. Chuckanut Editions, 2014

Ned Brown’s Geology of the San Juan Islands. Chuckanut Editions, 2014

2014 Brown, N., Geology of the San Juan Islands Chuckanut Editions. 99 pages.

A wonderful full-color guide to geology of these beautiful islands. Many great photos and interpretive diagrams, and a guide to locations to see some pretty dramatic rocks. The author is emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University, and really knows San Juan geology.

2009 Haugerud, Ralph A., and Tabor, Rowland W., 2009, Geologic map of the North Cascade Range, Washington: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 2940, 2 sheets, scale 1:200,000; 2 pamphlets, 29 p. and 23 p.

Geologic map of the North Cascades. 33 x 50 ” paper map. Click to enlarge

This map is available online. It includes a wonderful set of 100 annotated photos highlighting North Cascades geology in the ‘photo presentation‘ section. This is a marvelous geologic map, a compendium of eight colorful 1:100,000 30 x 60 minute sheets: Chelan, Mount Baker, Robinson Mountain, Sauk River, Skykomish River, Snoqualmie Pass, Twisp, and Wenatchee, all by various combinations of the authors and others. Included are two explanatory pamphlets- one each for ‘citizen’ and ‘professional’ geologists. It looks great on your wall if you purchase a paper copy (see first link for order info).

The authors are the leading authorities on North Cascade mapping and geology. This map is an absolute must-have for the armchair as well as academic North Cascades geologist.

1993 Roadside Geology of Mount St. Helens National Monument and Vicinity by Patrick P. Pringle. Washington Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geology and Earth Resources Information Circular 88. This slim volume is a gem and a fine example of your tax dollars at work. It is now out of print, but available online from DNR here, along with other good stuff on MSH. The book is 120 pages long, and includes a glossary and a “Geologic Primer” at the end, a succinct intro to rock types, time scale, dating rocks, plate tectonics,and volcanic processes. A lot of information in a few pages.

2005 Roadside Geology of British Columbia by Bill Mathews and Jim Monger; Mountain Press Publishing (Missoula). Reprinted in 2010, and with a new cover design, this is  surely one of the best volumes in the entire Roadside Geology series.  The authors are among the foremost field geologists in the province. The book has a ton of background geologic information. Maybe best of all, actual field stops are located and described- more in the vein of the same publisher’s Geology Underfoot series. Some sites, such as The Barrier north of Squamish, are illustrated and described even though somewhat off the highway. There are a number of pages titled ‘Viewpoint Geology’, which sketch and describe what can be seen in different directions from a particular location. All the photos are b/w; unfortunately some of the detail photos are missing anything to give a sense of scale. There is a very nice introduction to many of the stratigraphic units that are seen along the roads. I recommended the book highly if you are traveling BC’s beautiful landscape.

2006 Discovering Washington’s Historic Mines vol 3, by Phil Woodhouse, Daryl Jacobson, and Victor Pisoni. This is the most recent in this multi-volume set (#4 in the works). This one focuses on mines of NW Washington, The other three volumes deal with the rest of the state. Directions to the mine sites are provided, where they could be located by the authors. Lots of great history. Go to the Northwest Underground Explorations website to learn more about the books. The first three volumes are available via the Bellingham Public Library.

2002  Geology and Plant Life- The Effects of Landforms and Rock Types on Plants, by Arthur R. Kruckeberg. University of Washington Press, Seattle. This sounds like a valuable addition to the bookshelf of natural historians. It is not a field guide, but I couldn’t list publicizing it here.  From the publisher’s description: “Before any other influences began to fashion life and its lavish diversity, geological events created the initial environments – both physical and chemical – for the evolutionary drama that followed.” $27.95 paperback.

A pdf listing published field trip guides (last updated in 2003) is available from the Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources. Note that there are no links provided, and many of these will be difficult to obtain.

The Ice-Age Floods Institute has a list of field trip guides to features and geologic evidence to these humongous floods. Rather than list them each here, you can seek out trips of interest to you. The link is here, scroll down to the list of  ‘field trip guides. There is also a bibliography, and list of videos made about the floods. An example of one of the field guides this outfit produces follows.

2002 Ice-Age Flood Features in the Vicinity of the Pasco Basin and the Hanford Reach National Monument, by Bruce Bjornstad. Ice Age Flood Institute.

This lavishly illustrated guide is written by a prolific Missoula Floods researcher, and is available in full online. Important note: the Preface states that “This field guide and road log provide an introduction to ice-age flood features that occur in the vicinity of the Pasco Basin and the Hanford Reach National Monument (HRNM). Portions of this field trip include restricted-access areas within the HRNM. Therefore, this field trip cannot be completed in its entirety by individuals without first obtaining permission from the Richland Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” Much of the material in this field guide is incorporated in On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods by Bruce Bjornstad and previously listed below.

2004 A Self-Guided Tour to the Columbia River Gorge- Portland Airport to Skamania Lodge, Stevenson, Washington, by David K. Norman and Jaretta M. Roloff. Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources Open File Report 2004-7,  March 2004. 9 pages. Available online here.

This short guide primarily follows Interstate 84 eastbound up the Columbia River Gorge. Some of the stops are: viewpoints, Multnomah Falls, and the Bonneville Landslide Complex.

2004       Geologic Field Trip to the Aldercrest–Banyon Landslide and Mount St. Helens, Washington, Part I—Stevenson to Castle Rock, compiled by Karl W. Wegmann.  Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources     I haven’t found a “Part II” yet. If you know where to do so, please let me know. tuckerd at geol dot wwu dot edu

This was published by Washington State Department of Geology and Earth Resources (DGER) back when that department had money to publish field guides. It is available online here. It begins in Stevenson, on the Columbia River, and provides a mile-by-mile road guide along the Washington side of the gorge via Hwy 14 through the Bonneville (“Bridge of the Gods’) Landslide, Beacon Rock, Cape Horn, various volcanic and sedimentary units all the way to I-5, then up I-5 to Castle Rock. A focal point is the large Aldercrest-Banyon landslide in Kelso. Unfortunately, that slide can not be visited without permission. It is mostly useful for insights into volcanics seen along I-5 in southern Washington.

2009       Volcanoes to Vineyards: Geologic Field Trips through the Dynamic Landscape of the Pacific Northwest. (GSA)

This is the field trip guide from Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Portland. Trips are in Washington and Oregon. It is written for professional geologists, but is useful to anyone.

Order it here:

2008   Roadside Geology of Mount Rainier National Park and Vicinity, by Patrick Pringle (WA State DNR). This is a big guidebook, to lots of great, mainly volcanic, geology. Wonderful photos and step-by step maps. Visit the Department of Natural Resources website to order, or for the FREE DOWNLOAD!!!!

2007        Floods, Faults, and Fire: Geological Field Trips in Washington State and Southwest British Columbia. (GSA)

Another field trip guide from the Cordilleran GSA meeting in Bellingham. It is the volume that includes the Baker field trip pdf you can access on this website (see column at right). It is relatively inexpensive. It is available at the Bellingham and WWU libraries. One trip is in SW BC, all the others in Washington State, mostly the NW corner. Order it here:

2006   On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods by Bruce Bjornstad (Keokee books).  This is a road guide to the mid-Columbia basin. It describes features left behind by the giant Missoula (Bretz) floods that repeatedly covered E. Washington at the close of the Pleistocene. Order from the publisher.

2005    The Geology of Southern Vancouver Island (revised edition) by C.J. Yorath (Harbour Publishing). Lots of beautiful places to go to here, including Pacific Rim National Park, in a geologically complex area. Well written and worth having. Order it from the from the publisher if it is not in your local bookstore.

2003         A transect of the Southern Canadian Cordillera from Calgary to Vancouver (GAC). This is a fairly serious road guide to 1000 km of highway, written for professional geologists. You can learn about it at, and buy it from,  the Geological Association of Canada’s bookstore:

Different title, same fun book!

2009 Hiking Guide to Washington Geology by Bob Carson and Scott Babcock

This book was formerly known as Hiking Washington’s Geology. Written by Bob Carson of Whitman College, and Scott Babcock at Western Washington University.

Two geologists take us on 56 hikes throughout the state to see great geology, including some places covered on this website. The book is now published by Keokee Co. Publishing, Inc.  Non-fiction, 272 pages, 6″ x 9″ soft cover 85 photos, 7 maps and a fully detailed guide to 56 trails ISBN 978-1-879628-37-3

The National Association of Geology Teachers (Northwest Section) has some geology field guides for sale , written in the past decade. They tend to be short; some often are very minimalist. Go to the NAGT website to order.

1999     Geology of the North Cascades by R. Tabor and R. Haugerud (Mountaineers). Here is the high point of Cascade geology guides, with both road and trail descriptions, and really wonderful sketches and maps. It is a must have book for the hiker. A highlight is the introductory geology primer for the nontechnical reader.

1997      Fire, Faults, & Floods: A Road & Trail Guide Exploring the Origins of the Columbia River Basin by Marge and Ted Mueller (Northwest Naturalist books)

This is a fun guidebook to a wide variety of geology, focusing on the Columbia River Basalt lava flows adn the Missoula Floods of J Harlan Bretz. It includes brief field trip descriptions that extend from glacial lake shorelines at Missoula to CRB sills on the northern Oregon Coast, including some little known and out-of-the-way places. It is written by, and for, non-geologists, and is very useful. It is available from various booksellers online. The Bellingham Public Library has a copy.

1986 Roadside Geology of Washington by Donald Alt and David Hyndman (Mountain Press). This book has been around a long time. It is frustrating to use if you want to really SEE the geology rather than drive past it, but it is a good place to start, and a useful companion to keep in the car when you are on the road. Get a more detailed guide if you put boots on the ground. Perennially available online. Look in your public library.

1995 Northwest Exposures by Donald Alt and David Hyndman (Mountain Press). An overview of the entire geologic history. Table of contents here. Available at Bellingham Public Library, occasionally in used book stores. Note that the publication date was a long time ago given the pace of geological discoveries, but this book is still a good general guide. Serious geology readers will want to pursue their own reading on topics of specific interest. Some are listed above.

5 Responses

  1. Great! Now I have a Christmas/Birthday wish list for my family!

  2. Could I modestly propose adding “Gem Trails of Washington” to the list? There’s some good geology in there along with the collecting locales.

    Also, definitely check out the fourth edition of “Geology of the North Cascades: A Mountain Mosaic” by Rowland Tabor and Ralph Haugerud, Mountaineers Press.

  3. lots of great info, but what about Vancouver Island??

    • Shelagh,
      There are field trips here to a few beach walks along the Victoria waterfront. What would you like to see here about Vancouver Island? I confess I’m really familiar with the island’s detailed geology. Perhaps you know people who can provide trips to this website?

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