The Geological History of Mount Magazine


Small grains of sand, silt, and clay floated and tumbled with river currents until reaching the edge of a vast ocean. Some of this sediment spilled off the continental shelf into a deep abyss. Over time huge quantities of sediment formed. Compaction squeezed, and glued sediment particles together to form sandstones, siltstones, and shale.

At the same time, plant and animal material drifted out to sea and sank into the sediment. Trapped, compressed, and deprived of oxygen, minerals replaced some of the plant and animal molecules to become fossils. Portions became coal.

Part of a supercontinent appeared on the southern horizon. It drifted closer and closer ever so slowly, but its mass was nearly unstoppable. It collided with ancestral North America. Layers of sedimentary rock at the bottom of the ocean were compressed, folded, and uplifted to become what we now call the Ouachita Mountains. This process of how mountains form took several million years. To the north, the Ozark Plateau domed upward.

Between the Ouachita Mountains and the Ozark Plateau, small streams developed. Eventually they merged into a river we now call Arkansas. Water wore away the rocks over millions of years. Different rocks eroded at different rates. Hard types of sandstone capped and protected some areas. These eventually became hills, and then mountains, as the terrain around them seemed to sink.

One of these hard-capped hills is now called Mount Magazine. Fossils of prehistoric plants found on top of the mountain provide evidence of its submerged past. Although they have some characteristics of the Ouachita Mountains, Mount Magazine and others mountains in the Arkansas River Valley are considered by some geologists to be a separate range.

Isolated like an island in the sky, Mount Magazine looms high above the surrounding terrain. Its height is imposing, challenging, and desirable. For centuries it has attracted human interests. Its geology melded into its history.