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West Virginia GeoFacts separator bullet Coal, Mining, Mine Subsidence separator bullet Oil and Gas separator bullet General Geology, Geographyseparator bullet Environmental Issues, Water, Springs separator bullet Maps, Aerial Photographs, Satellite Imagery, GIS Data separator bullet Geology as a Profession

If you have a West Virginia geology question not addressed on our web site or in these "Frequently Asked Questions," please contact us at info@geosrv.wvnet.edu or (304) 594-2331.

West Virginia GeoFacts

Highest Point:  Spruce Knob in the Circleville District of Pendleton County
Elevation: 4863 feet above mean sea level
Latitude: 38.699560, Longitude: -79.533090 (Degrees, NAD 1983?)
(Source: USDA, US Forest Service Spruce Knob and Spruce Knob Observation Tower)
Lowest Point:   Harpers Ferry in the Harpers Ferry District of Jefferson County (the benchmark on the topographic map near the intersection of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers at Harpers Ferry indicates 287 feet, but it is situated above river level)
Elevation: approximately 250 feet above mean sea level, depending on Potomac River level
Latitude: 39.323217, Longitude: -77.728638 (Degrees, NAD 1983)
(Sources: USGS 7.5-minute topographic map, Harpers Ferry, WV, West Virginia Digital Elevation Model (DEM) from WVDEP's TAGIS Map Services Directory, and the WVU GIS Tech Center's wv_aerial_photos_mixed_resolutions_wm (MapServer))

Number of 7.5-minute (1:24,000-scale) topographic quadrangles covering the state: 496
Number of 1:100,000-scale topographic quadrangles that cover the state: 27
How to find specific topographic maps for a location: Use our interactive topo map index.

Number of named coal seams in the State: 117
Approximate number of minable coal seams in the State: 62
Where to find coals seams for a certain location: Use our interactive coal maps. (Click on arrows next to Group to move down through the various seams.)
Where to find mine locations: Use our interactive coal-mine map

Number of named oil and gas fields in the State: 393 (as of June 2017)

Deepest wells drilled in the state:
  • Calhoun 2503 at 20,222', drilled in 1974 by Exxon USA
  • Mingo 805 at 19,600', drilled in 1973 by Columbia Gas Transmission
  • Lincoln 1469 at 19,124', drilled in 1974 by Exxon USA
Number of counties with oil and gas wells: Wells have been drilled in 53 of the State's 55 counties. At this time, the only two counties with no oil or gas wells are Berkeley and Jefferson counties in the eastern panhandle.

State Rock: Bituminous Coal: The State rock (so designated by a House Concurrent Resolution, 37 in 2009) is bituminous coal. Coal is found naturally deposited in the vast majority of the 55 counties of West Virginia. Coal was discovered in what is now West Virginia in 1742, by European explorer John Peter Salley in the area of Racine, West Virginia. Salley named the nearby tributary of the Kanawha River, where he observed the coal deposit, Coal River. In 1770, George Washington noted "a coal hill on fire" near West Columbia in what is currently Mason County. The first commercial coal mine was opened near Wheeling by Conrad Cotts in 1810, for blacksmithing and domestic use. The coal industry has been an integral part of the economic and social fabric of West Virginia.
 

Bituminous Coal

coal
coal coal
(photographs by Ray Garton)

State Gem: Lithostrotionella: The State gem (so designated by House Concurrent Resolution 39, March 10, 1990) is the Mississippian fossil coral, Lithostrotionella, preserved as the siliceous mineral chalcedony. It is found in the Hillsdale Limestone (Greenbrier Group) in portions of Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties, and is often cut and polished for jewelry and for display.
 

Lithostrotionella, unaltered

Lithostrotionella
 

Lithostrotionella, cut and polished
Lithostrotionella Lithostrotionella Lithostrotionella
(photographs by Ray Garton)

State Fossil: Megalonyx jeffersonii: The State fossil (so designated by House Concurrent Resolution, 28 in 2008) is the extinct Pleistocene ground sloth Megalonyx jeffersonii. A left arm and hand were found in a Monroe County cave in the 1790's and scientifically described by Thomas Jefferson in 1797. The new species was named in honor of Jefferson by Caspar Wistar. One of the bones was Carbon-14 dated at 35,960 years.
 

Jefferson Ground Sloth Megalonyx jeffersonii

Jefferson Ground Sloth model
model
Jefferson Ground Sloth skull
skeleton
Jefferson Ground Sloth skeleton
skull
Jefferson Ground Sloth claws
claws
Jefferson Ground Sloth hand with human hand
sloth hand beside human hand
(model, skeleton, skull, and hand photographs by Ray Garton; claws by Ray Strawser)

State Soil: Monongahela Silt Loam: The State soil (so designated by House Concurrent Resolution, 10 in 1997) is the Monongahela Silt Loam. Monongahela soils cover more than 100,000 acres in 45 counties in West Virginia. These soils are very deep, moderately well drained and occur on alluvial stream terraces that do not flood. Monongahela soils are used extensively for cultivation of crops, pasture, woodlands, hay, and home/building site development. Considered prime farmland, Monongahela soils generally have slopes of 3 percent or less. Find out more about the Monongahela Silt Loam from the West Virginia Association of Professional Soil Scientists. West Virginia soil surveys can be found on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) West Virginia Soil Surveys page.

For more information on West Virginia, please see the West Virginia Encyclopedia.
 

[Coal, Mining, Mine Subsidence] [Oil and Gas] [General Geology, Geography] [Environmental Issues, Water, Springs] [Maps, Aerial Photographs, Satellite Imagery, GIS Data] [Geology as a Profession]        [WVGES Home Page]        (Return to top of FAQ Page)


Coal, Mining, Mine Subsidence

Where can I find coal and coal-mine information for West Virginia?
Our interactive coal-bed maps (click on arrows next to Group to move down through the various seams) and interactive coal-mine map are great places to start. Scanned mine maps are available from our Mine Information Database System (MIDS). Please refer to our Coal Bed Mapping Project page to learn how to use these online maps and databases. The West Virginia Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training (MHST) maintains a large archive of mine maps, statistical data (including coal production by county), and history.
 
Where can I find coal-production data?
The West Virginia Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training (MHST) maintains statistical data, including coal production by county and year. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (USEIA) has a database of coal-production for West Virginia, including a Weekly Coal Production page. Scroll down to the map on the USEIA web page and click on West Virginia to see details on annual production.

What coal seams do I see exposed in the roadcuts along Interstate 79?
I-79 generally follows the outcrop of the Conemaugh Group. Although this group does contain some locally minable coals, none are economically minable along the route of Interstate 79. The thick coals exposed near the Clarksburg/Bridgeport interchange at US Route 50 (exit 119) are the Pittsburgh and Redstone beds near the base of the Monongahela Formation. The thick coal exposed between the Star City/Morgantown exit (exit 155) and the Pennsylvania state line is the Waynesburg bed at the top of the Monongahela Formation. A stratigraphic column with coals of the Pennsylvanian Subsytem of the Carboniferous System shows these groups, formations, and coal beds.

What coals do I see exposed along other interstate and other highways?
Our interactive coal-bed maps (click on arrows next to Group to move down through the various seams) show coal beds and where they crop out at the surface. A stratigraphic column with coals of the Pennsylvanian Subsytem of the Carboniferous System shows the geologic names of the groups, formations, and coal beds.

Is there coal under my land? How much? How deep? Is it minable? Has it already been mined?
Coal occurs under much of West Virginia. Where, how deep, how many seams, and whether any are minable or have already been mined all depend on the exact location. Our interactive coal-bed maps (click on arrows next to Group to move down through the various seams) and interactive coal-mine map show the locations of coal beds and mines. Scanned mine maps are available from our Mine Information Database System (MIDS). Please refer to our Coal Bed Mapping Project page to learn how to use all these available maps and databases. A stratigraphic column with coals pdf icon   of the Pennsylvanian Subsytem of the Carboniferous System shows the geologic names of the groups, formations, and coal beds. The West Virginia Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training (MHST) also maintains a large archive of mine maps.

What is the name of the coal seam under my property?
Depending on your location, there may be one or more coal seams located under your property. Also, local names for specific coal beds may differ from WVGES names. We suggest referring to our stratigraphic column with coals pdf icon  for ''official'' coal bed names. Our interactive coal-bed maps (click on arrows next to Group to move down through the various seams) and interactive coal-mine map show the locations of coal beds and mines. Scanned mine maps are available from our Mine Information Database System (MIDS). Please refer to our Coal Bed Mapping Project page to learn how to use all of these available maps and databases. The stratigraphic column with coals pdf icon  of the Pennsylvanian Subsytem of the Carboniferous System shows the geologic names of the groups, formations, and coal beds.

Are there coal mines in my area?
Depending on your location, there may be one or more coal mines located beneath your property. Our interactive coal maps (click on arrows next to Group to move down through the various seams) and interactive coal-mine map show the locations of coal beds and mines. Scanned mine maps are available from our Mine Information Database System (MIDS). Please refer to our Coal Bed Mapping Project page to learn how to use all these available maps and databases. The West Virginia Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training (MHST) also maintains a large archive of mine maps. Please be aware that coal company names and mine names change often. The same mine may have a history of various names and companies.

Do I need to purchase mine subsidence insurance?
Please contact us at info@geosrv.wvnet.edu or (304) 594-2331, and please be sure to have an accurate, precise location on a map, latitude and longitude, or UTM coordinates.

What is the difference between high-sulfur and low-sulfur coal? Where is each found in West Virginia? Why is it so important?
High and low sulfur coals do not differ significantly in composition. In general, the geologically younger coal beds found in northern West Virginia contain more sulfur than the geologically older coal beds found in southern West Virginia. For more information, click here.

How much coal does West Virginia produce?
How much coal comes from my county?
Coal production varies with market conditions and many other factors resulting in fluctuating production over time. The West Virginia Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training (MHST) maintains statistical data, including coal production by county and year. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (USEIA) maintains a database of coal-production data, including a Weekly Coal Production page. Scroll down to the map on the USEIA web page and click on West Virginia to see details on annual production.

Where does most of the coal mined in West Virginia go? Was it any different in the past?
In 2002, 163,347,203 tons of coal were mined in West Virginia. West Virginia coal is used nationally and internationally. In 1997, 38,450,000 tons were exported to foreign ports, representing about 46 percent of the total coal exports from the United States. Much of the exported coal from West Virginia is used for steel manufacturing. Of the remaining production, 37,142,000 tons were consumed in West Virginia, mainly for electrical power generation, while 106,322,000 tons were shipped to other states, where electric utilities consumed 79 percent, steel makers used 16 percent, and others consumed the remaining 5 percent (Source: West Virginia Coal Association).

In recent decades, use of West Virginia coal for electrical power generation has increased, while use in coke production for steel manufacturing has decreased. Earlier in the 1900s, West Virginia coal was used extensively as fuel for steamships and steam locomotives.

When was coal first mined in West Virginia?
There are written references to coal being mined in the Kanawha Valley in the 1700s. For additional information, refer to History of West Virginia Mineral Industries - Coal.

When did large-scale coal mining begin in southern West Virginia?
Large-scale coal mining began in southern West Virginia after the Civil War. Production increased as railroad links to markets were completed. For more information, please see History of West Virginia Mineral Industries - Coal.

When did large-scale surface mining begin in West Virginia?
Large-scale surface mining began in the 1950s, with the advent of large equipment. Additional sources of information include: History of West Virginia Mineral Industries - Coal and A Geologic Overview of Mountaintop Removal Mining in West Virginia.

What is a "GIS"? How is the Survey using it to map coal?
GIS, or Geographic Information System, is a computerized system for the capture, storage, management, analysis, and display of digital maps, images, and related databases that are referenced with geographic coordinates. The Survey maps the coal beds of West Virginia using GIS. For each important coal bed, geologists are creating structural (elevation) contour maps, outcrop maps, mined-area maps, coal thickness and partings maps, and coal-quality maps. These GIS coverages are used in the West Virginia State Tax Department's mineral lands taxation program and are also very useful for investigating abandoned mine lands problems, in coal mine permitting and regulation, in economic forecasting, and other applications. Click here for more information about the Survey's coal GIS and Coal Bed Mapping Program.

[Coal, Mining, Mine Subsidence] [Oil and Gas] [General Geology, Geography] [Environmental Issues, Water, Springs] [Maps, Aerial Photographs, Satellite Imagery, GIS Data] [Geology as a Profession]        [WVGES Home Page]        (Return to top of FAQ Page)


Oil and Gas

Where can I find natural gas-production data?
WVGES maintains a large database of oil and gas well information on our Pipeline-plus and pipeline pages. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) also maintains information on petroleum wells and production on their WVDEP Database and Map Information page, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has overall West Virginia natural gas-production data on the EIA Natural Gas data page.

Where can I find information on oil and gas in my county?
What oil and gas fields are located in my area?
What formations produce gas and/or oil in my area?
To answer all of these questions, WVGES maintains a large database of oil and gas well information accessible through our Pipeline-plus and pipeline pages, including an interactive map (opens as a separate page). The Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) also maintains detailed information on oil and gas wells on their WVDEP Database and Map Information page. On our Publications Sales Main Search page you can enter "oil gas" into the keywords box to generate a list of our oil and gas publications. The Atlas of Major Appalachian Gas Plays (Survey Volume V-25), is an invaluable resource for oil and gas information in West Virginia and the Appalachian Basin.

Do you have a record of the old gas well near my house?
WVGES has records for more than 150,000 wells drilled in the state. Approximately half of those have been drilled since permitting became required in 1929. We likely have some information for wells drilled prior to 1929, although this information may not be complete. Many, but not all, of the old records have been scanned. Data can be accessed through our Pipeline-plus page, pipeline page, and interactive map. Scanned files are available through the Pipeline-plus page. The Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) also maintains detailed information on oil and gas wells on their WVDEP Database and Map Information page. We may have some information on wells drilled prior to permitting, although this information may not be complete. Please contact us at info@geosrv.wvnet.edu or (304) 594-2331 if you need more information.

Do you have well production records?
Production reporting became required in 1979. The Survey has monthly and annual production data for most wells since then and they can be accessed through our Pipeline-plus and pipeline pages. Information on specific wells can be obtained from our Pipeline-plus Oil and Gas Well Header Data Search. The Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) also maintains detailed information on oil and gas wells on their WVDEP Database and Map Information page. Please contact us at info@geosrv.wvnet.edu or (304) 594-2331 if you need more information.

Where can I find more information about the Marcellus Shale and other Devonian shales?
We have an entire page devoted to information on the Marcellus and other Devonian Shales, including maps, data files, and nomenclature.

What is the Utica Shale and where can I find more information?
Despite its name, the Utica shale play is neither Utica nor shale. The actual drilling target is the Middle Ordovician subsurface unit informally called the Point Pleasant, a previously unnamed target in West Virginia. It is located stratigraphically near the Utica, a unit already known in West Virginia, and hence the term. The Point Pleasant consists of alternating thin beds of limestone and organic shale. The thin beds and lack of permeability created an exceptional trapping mechanism for gas generated as the reservoir matured. We should note that the names ''Utica'' and ''Point Pleasant'' are considered drillers' terms rather than names of formal stratigraphic units. A generalized stratigraphic column or strat chart pdf icon for West Virginia shows the Formation and Group names along with drillers' terms and geologic time periods. WVGES worked in cooperation with several other partners to produce the Utica Play Book page, an extensive web site full of maps, various datasets, downloads, and reports, including a detailed final report The Utica Play Book pdf icon (PDF, 25.5 MB; 205 pages), devoted to Utica - Point Pleasant geology and production.

What is the Rogersville Shale?
The Rogersville Shale is an organic-rich unit in the Middle Cambrian Conasauga Group / Elbrook Formation. Located in the Rome Trough, it is older and deeper than the Marcellus and Utica-Point Pleasant. More information is on our Posters and Presentations page. A generalized stratigraphic column or strat chart pdf icon for West Virginia shows the Formation and Group names along with drillers' terms and geologic time periods.

What information do you have on the Trenton - Black River carbonates?
WVGES worked in partnership with several other agencies to produce an extensive web page on the Trenton and Black River Project.

What information do you have on Tight Gas Reservoirs ?
The Appalachian Basin Tight Gas Reservoirs Project contains data, maps, and reports generated from a collaborative project between the Pennsylvania Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey and WVGES, with funding from the Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory. The project examined "the Mississippian-Devonian Berea/Murrysville sandstone play and the Upper Devonian Venango, Bradford and Elk sandstone plays in Pennsylvania and West Virginia; and the 'Clinton'/Medina sandstone play in northwestern Pennsylvania. In addition, some data were collected on the Tuscarora Sandstone play in West Virginia, which is the lateral equivalent of the Medina Sandstone in Pennsylvania."

How long has oil and gas been drilled in West Virginia? Where can I find some historical information about the oil and gas industry in the State?
We have seen published illustrations of drilling and production activity in the Burning Springs area of Wirt County from the late 1850s. Our page on the history of the development of the oil and gas industry in West Virginia has more information. An excellent resource on the history of the development of the industry in the State is the Survey's Petroleum and Natural Gas, Precise Levels, a 1904 Survey publication (Volume 1A) by then-Director I.C. White, which also describes the development of the tools used for drilling by the salt industry in the Kanawha Valley.

Also, David L. McKain and Bernard L. Allen wrote an interesting history of the oil and gas industry in West Virginia in their book Where It All Began - The Story of the People and Places Where the Oil and Gas Industry Began - West Virginia and Southeastern Ohio. An 1865 map at the beginning of the book shows the location of a well noted as ''first oil found 1790'' near the town of Elizabeth in Wirt County.

The Oil and Gas Museum at 119 Third Street in Parkersburg is open on Saturdays and Sundays, with weekday and evening hours available by appointment. Contact the museum at (304) 485-5446. And, don't forget the Oil and Gas Festival held annually in September in Sistersville in Tyler County.

Where is the deepest well drilled in West Virginia?
The deepest well was drilled in 1974 by Exxon USA in Calhoun County, to a depth of 20,222 feet, bottoming in the Precambrian basement. The well, permit number 2503, was dry with a gas show in the Big Lime and oil shows in the Upper Devonian shale and the Marcellus shale.

The longest measured depth we currently have for a horizontal well is 21,660 feet in the Utica-Point Pleasant for Marshall 1583. For the Marcellus the longest measured depth that we have recorded is 20,294 feet for Doddridge 6507. These are horizontal, not vertical, wells.

Wells drilled to the Precambrian basement are important to geologists because they provide a "view" of the complete stratigraphic section of sedimentary rocks in a particular area, and they may provide information about the potential of a variety of gas and/or oil reservoirs in the area.
Deepest Wells in West Virginia
County Permit Number Total Footage Formation at Total Depth
Calhoun 2503 20,222 feet deep Precambrian basement
Mingo 805 19,600 feet deep Precambrian basement
Lincoln 1469 19,124 feet deep Precambrian basement
Jackson 1366 17,680 feet deep Precambrian basement
Marion 244 17,111 feet deep Ordovician Beekmantown Formation
Marshall 539 16,512 feet deep Cambrian Copper Ridge Dolomite
Hardy 21 16,075 feet deep Cambro-Ordovician Rome Formation
Wayne 1572 14,625 feet deep Precambrian basement
Preston 86 14,594 feet deep Ordovician Black River Group
Hampshire 12 13,999 feet deep Cambrian Elbrook Formation
Wood 351 13,331 feet deep Precambrian basement
Wood 756 13,266 feet deep Precambrian basement
Randolph 103 13,121 feet deep Ordovician Trenton Group
Braxton 2236 13,040 feet deep Ordovician Wellscreek Limestone
Pendleton 6 13,001 feet deep Ordovician Trenton Group
Grant 2 13,000 feet deep Ordovician Beekmantown Formation
For more information on the basement wells, see the Detailed Table of Basement Test Wells in West Virginia.
What is the deepest occurrence of natural gas produced in West Virginia?
The basement test well, Jackson 1366, produced gas from a Rome sand (Middle Cambrian age) at a depth of 14,358 feet for about six months before mechanical problems forced the well to be plugged. Otherwise, the deepest sustained gas production has been reported from the Upper Ordovician Trenton and Black River carbonates in Roane County. The discovery well was drilled in 1999, and gas is produced from a depth of 10,271 feet. For more information on this and other recently permitted and drilled wells, see Recently-Permitted Trenton and Deeper Wells. We also have an extensive web page on the Trenton and Black River carbonates.

What is the deepest occurrence of oil produced in West Virginia?
In the mid-1980s, some oil was produced from the Balltown sand of Upper Devonian age at a depth of approximately 2,900 to 3,200 feet in the Belington field in southern Barbour County. Some oil was produced from Devonian shales in northwestern West Virginia around the same time. A few wells produced oil from the Devonian Oriskany Sandstone at depths between 4,800 and 5,100 feet, and three wells produced oil from the Silurian Newburg sand at a depth of 5,500 to 5,800 feet.

What field produced the largest amount of gas?
The Elk-Poca field in Jackson, Kanawha, and Putnam counties has produced more than 1 Tcf (trillion cubic feet) of natural gas from more than 1,000 wells since 1933.

What field produced the largest amount of oil?
The Salem-Wallace field in the north-central part of the State produced more than 41 million barrels of oil through 1960.

What county has the most oil and/or gas wells?
The Survey has records for nearly 13,000 wells drilled in Ritchie County. Other densely-drilled counties include Doddridge, Harrison, Kanawha, Lewis, Pleasants, and Roane.

Who is in charge of regulating drilling and production of oil and gas wells in the State?
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Oil and Gas has regulatory authority over oil and gas wells drilled and produced in the State.

What are my rights as a surface owner?
The West Virginia Surface Owners' Rights Organization can provide that information.

Where can I get maps of well locations?
We have an interactive oil and gas well map (opens as a separate page) for viewing well locations. The Survey also has a collection of 7.5-minute quadrangle-based maps showing well locations available for public viewing, but not copying, in our Oil and Gas Records Office. Please contact us at info@geosrv.wvnet.edu or (304) 594-2331 for information about the commercial availability of quadrangle maps showing well locations.

[Coal, Mining, Mine Subsidence] [Oil and Gas] [General Geology, Geography] [Environmental Issues, Water, Springs] [Maps, Aerial Photographs, Satellite Imagery, GIS Data] [Geology as a Profession]        [WVGES Home Page]        (Return to top of FAQ Page)


General Geology, Geography

What (and where) are the oldest and the youngest rocks in West Virginia?
Rocks exposed at the surface in West Virginia range in age from Ediacaran (latest Precambrian - about 570 million years old) to Middle Eocene (about 45 million years old). However, there is no place in the state where all of these rocks occur together in a continuous vertical section or a single outcrop. The geologic record for West Virginia is marked by numerous unconformities (intervals of missing time and the rocks for those time intervals). The most easily demonstrated of these unconformities are the gaps between the Permo-Pennsylvanian (about 280 to 285 million years old) and Jurassic (about 140 million years old) or Eocene igneous intrusives, missing 140 and 240 million years, respectively.

The oldest bedrock (rock in place) exposed at the surface is found in the southeastern tip of Jefferson County. These rocks, of the Catoctin Formation, are approximately 570 million years old (latest Precambrian) and consist of metamorphosed basalt lava flows. It is possible to find some rock fragments even older than this (such as granites) transported in glacial till and deposited as glacial outwash, but these are not native to West Virginia.

Other than Eocene and Jurassic intrusives in Pendleton and Pocahontas counties (see next question), the youngest bedrock in the State is from the Dunkard Group found in the Pittsburgh-Huntington Synclinorium, a broad basin in western West Virginia, southwestern Pennsylvania, and southeastern Ohio. In West Virginia, the Dunkard Group extends from the northern panhandle southward down the Ohio River to about I-64 and east to about western Monongalia and Harrison and northern Roane counties. The youngest rocks in this basin are sedimentary rocks of the Permo-Pennsylvanian Greene Formation of the Dunkard Group, approximately 280 to 285 million years old, and consist of sandstone, shale, mudstone, limestone, and coal.

Our generalized stratigraphic column or strat chart pdf icon shows the Formation and Group names along with their geologic time periods for West Virginia.

Are there any igneous rocks in West Virginia?
There are no granite bodies exposed in West Virginia but there are a number of ''shallow'' intrusive igneous dikes, sills, and plugs with compositions ranging from basalt to rhyolite that cut across sedimentary rocks of Ordovician through Devonian age. These rocks are exposed at the surface in Pendleton and Pocahontas counties and are reported in subsurface well drilling records from other counties.

These dikes, sills, and plugs are younger than the rocks they cut. Research by the U.S. Geological Survey and others indicate that the majority of these igneous intrusive rocks are Middle Eocene in age (approximately 42 - 50 million years) and thus, are considerably younger than the last stages of mountain-building associated with the Appalachian Orogeny or the Mesozoic rifting that opened the present-day Atlantic Ocean. During the Middle Eocene, the eastern coast of North America is thought to have been a ''passive'' continental margin, much like today. The presence of igneous activity in such a setting is unexpected and, as yet, unexplained. In addition, there is an older series of intrusives of Jurassic age associated with the Mesozoic rifting that opened the present-day Atlantic Ocean. These rocks are exposed at a few locations in Pendleton County.

Other igneous activity preserved in the stratigraphic record is that of various volcanic ash falls. These are preserved in Cambrian strata, in the Middle Ordovician Trenton Group, in the Tioga Ash and others of Lower-Middle Devonian age, and in the Fire Clay coal bed of the Middle Pennsylvanian Kanawha Formation.

Are there any metamorphic rocks in West Virginia?
Outcrops of four metamorphic formations occur along the eastern boundary of Jefferson County in the eastern panhandle. The Precambrian metaigneous Catoctin greenstone consists of metamorphosed basalt lava flows. Three Lower Cambrian metasedimentary formations include (from older to younger) the Weverton quartzite (a metamorphosed sandstone), Harpers phyllite (a metamorphosed shale), and Antietam quartzite (a metamorphosed sandstone).

For more information:

Why are some sedimentary rocks in West Virginia red? green? brown/black?
The color of sedimentary rocks may be influenced by their mineral or organic content and may reflect the environment in which they were formed. Reddish or greenish rocks are generally colored by different oxidation states of iron. Brown, black, or very dark gray rocks generally contain large amounts of organic matter and reflect deposition in an environment lacking oxygen. Want to know more? Click here.

Is there gold in West Virginia?
There has been no native gold or native silver recognized to date in West Virginia.

Have any diamonds or precious gems been found in West Virginia?
The third-largest diamond ever found in the United States, the "Punch" Jones Diamond shown below, was found near Peterstown in Monroe County, within one-half mile of the Virginia state line. It has been suggested that the diamond actually occurred in rocks in Virginia and that erosion carried it to the West Virginia side of the border. There are no other likely sites for diamonds in this State.

No other precious gems are known to have been found in West Virginia. While many gemstones are associated with igneous or metamorphic rocks, most rocks exposed at the surface in this State are sedimentary rocks.
 

"Punch" Jones Diamond

Punch Jones Diamond, courtesy of Sotheby's
The diamond is a near perfect octahedron (8 sided) weighing 34.46 carats and is 5/8 inches long.

Did dinosaurs ever exist in West Virginia?
We know of no true dinosaur fossils found in the State because the sedimentary rocks in West Virginia are too old (Paleozoic in age). Dinosaurs existed during the Mesozoic Era, but there are no known sedimentary rocks of Mesozoic age and no known rocks derived from Mesozoic rocks in the State. Any Mesozoic rocks that might have covered the State have been eroded away.

Dinosaur tracks and some bones are found in Mesozoic rocks in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. We do know that the youngest sedimentary rocks in West Virginia (Permian age, Paleozoic Era) contain a rich record of four-legged amphibians and reptiles that were ancestors of the dinosaurs. A reproduction of an amphibian trackway from Tucker County is on display in the lobby of the WVGES office building at Mont Chateau in the WVGES mini-museum, a collection of minerals, fossils and other notable artifacts.

How much of West Virginia was covered by glaciers during the "Ice Age?"
None of the State was covered by glacial ice during the most recent glacial advances (Wisconsinan stage), the so-called Ice Age. However, West Virginia's climate at the time and a portion of the surface were affected by the presence of glaciers to the north and northwest in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Want to know even more?

What was Glacial Lake Monongahela?
Glacial Lake Monongahela, or simple Lake Monongahela, was formed when outwash, or possibly ice, dammed the northward-flowing Monongahela River and its tributaries at least once, forming a large lake extending south towards Lewis County. This dam was probably located just above the tip of the northern panhandle of West Virginia. At its highest level, Lake Monongahela was 200 miles long and 100 miles wide, and flooded all land below 1,100 feet in elevation in parts of northwestern West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania. Another major lake associated with the glacial period was Glacial Lake Teays, located in the Kanawha-Huntington area. Still interested?

What is the age of the New River?
From the headwaters of the New River at Blowing Rock, North Carolina, to the junction of the Kanawha River with the Ohio River, there is a valley demonstrating the enormous powers of erosion by running water. Because this river transects the Appalachian Mountains, people have attempted to assign an age to the river based on the age of the mountains; all estimates are uncertain and hypothetical. We cannot scientifically define a precise age for the New River because there is no method to date rivers.

Additional information:

Does West Virginia have earthquakes?
From time to time, earthquakes are felt in West Virginia, and we list the information on our Seismicity in West Virginia and the Region page. The vast majority of these quakes originate below the surface of adjacent states, especially Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. In general, the eastern earthquakes originating near our borders are not that damaging. You may feel an earthquake in your lifetime, but chances are it will do little but rattle cups and dishes in your home. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) maintains a web site about earthquakes and earthquake hazards at earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes.

Do volcanoes occur in West Virginia?
No, however, evidence of multiple ash falls from volcanoes is preserved in rocks of Cambrian, Ordovician, and Devonian age in outcrops in eastern West Virginia and in the subsurface in the western part of the state, as well as in a flint clay in the Fire Clay coal bed of Middle Pennsylvanian age (Kanawha Formation) in southern West Virginia. The sources of these ash falls are speculated to have been volcanoes - long ago eroded - located southeast of what is now West Virginia. All of these events occurred more than 300 million years ago. A generalized stratigraphic column or ''strat chart'' pdf icon  for West Virginia shows the Formation and Group names along with their geologic time periods.

What is the geology where I live?
The western two-thirds of the state is in the Appalachian Plateau Physiographic Province where relatively flat-lying to gently folded sedimentary rocks of Mississippian, Pennsylvanian, and Permian age are exposed at the surface. The Valley and Ridge Province in the eastern third of the state contains relatively older, mostly sedimentary, faulted and folded rocks of Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, and Devonian age. The Allegheny Front separates the two provinces. Rocks exposed at the surface are generally youngest in the western part of West Virginia and oldest in the eastern part of the state. Please refer to the geologic map of the State or the description of the physiographic provinces of the state for more information. A generalized stratigraphic column or ''strat chart'' pdf icon for West Virginia shows the Formation and Group names along with their geologic time periods. More information is on our maps and data files page.

What kind of rock is this? What kind of fossil is this?
Please contact us at info@geosrv.wvnet.edu or (304) 594-2331.

Where can I find gemstones in West Virginia?
Only a limited variety of gemstones are found in West Virginia, because the types of rocks found in the State are not those associated with the formation of most gemstones. Most natural gems are hard minerals formed from the crystallization of gases and fluids in the earth and are found with either igneous rocks (solidified molten material) or metamorphic rocks (changed by heat, pressure, or chemical reaction). However, almost all of West Virginia's rocks exposed at the surface are of sedimentary origin: they formed from matter deposited by water or wind. The end result is few gemstones. Among the few gemstones found in West Virginia are opal, some types of quartz, and two coal or coal-like minerals which, though softer than most gemstones, are cut, polished, and carved into jewelry. Want to know a little more about West Virginia minerals?

WARNING: if you plan to enter any property searching for minerals, rocks, fossils, or gemstones, you should only do so with the permission of the property owner. Removal of gemstones or any other rocks, fossils, or minerals is prohibited by law in State Parks and all caves in West Virginia. Also, please be alert for rock slides, poison ivy, snakes, ticks, and other hazards when searching for gemstones.

Who ''owns'' the Ohio River?
West Virginia ''owns'' the Ohio River and the islands in it to the low water mark on the Ohio side of the river along our border with that state. As you drive across any of the bridges over the Ohio River, note where the ''Welcome to . . .'' signs appear. They should reflect that you are in West Virginia when you are over the river.

I am interested in genealogy. Where can I find information on place names in West Virginia?
A good place to start is the Survey's West Virginia Gazetteer of Physical and Cultural Place Names (West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey Publication V-24, 1986), a compendium of more than 30,000 place names that occurred on several vintages of maps in the State.

[Coal, Mining, Mine Subsidence] [Oil and Gas] [General Geology, Geography] [Environmental Issues, Water, Springs] [Maps, Aerial Photographs, Satellite Imagery, GIS Data] [Geology as a Profession]        [WVGES Home Page]        (Return to top of FAQ Page)


Environmental Issues, Water, Springs

Is a landslide likely to occur on my property?
Because of the relatively steep relief in much of the State, landslides are a potential hazard wherever slopes are disturbed by erosion or construction. The Survey has published 36 topographic maps (7.5-minute series, 1:24,000 scale) overprinted with landslide information as part of our West Virginia Landslides and Slide-Prone Areas, (Survey publications EGB-15, EGB-15A (several publications), EGB-15B, and EGB-15C). Please search Publication Sales or contact us at info@geosrv.wvnet.edu or (304) 594-2331 regarding specific maps in this series.

Why has the creek turned acidic?
The creek is most likely in West Virginia's high ash/high sulfur Northern Coal Field. Most of the acid drainage originates from abandoned underground mines. Other sources of acidic drainage include active underground and surface coal mines, surface accumulations of rock waste from underground mines and coal cleaning plants, unreclaimed surface mines, and unsuccessfully reclaimed surface mines. Tell me more!

Why would my water well go dry?
Well failure and low water level are the two main reasons water wells go dry. A water well may fail when it is no longer able to transmit water from the aquifer to the pump intake. This is usually caused by corrosion and scale or by algae, bacteria, or improper well development. A well may also go dry when the water table or piezometric surface falls below the bottom of the well screen or open hole. This can result from drought, dewatering of the aquifer from overuse, or diversion of ground water away from the well and into a mine, road cut, or deeper aquifer. For more information please refer to our guide A Practical Handbook for Individual Water Supply Systems in West Virginia, 1979, Publication ED-11, 110 p.

Are there any natural springs in my area?
West Virginia has thousands of springs. Nearly 1,200 of the most prominent documented springs are described in the Survey's Springs of West Virginia publication (1986, Volume 6A), with precise locations and some flow, temperature, or water quality data for springs in 49 of the State's 55 counties. Springs do exist in the other six counties, but they are not documented in the Springs publication.

What is the overall water quality in West Virginia? How is it tested?
Water quality involves complex issues that do not have simple answers. Many factors affect water quality, including climate, geology, soils, and human activities. The intended use of the water determines if the water quality is satisfactory for that use. For example, water that is suitable for industrial use many not be appropriate for use as drinking water. Water quality is tested by chemical analysis. The analytical procedures used and the type and frequency of sampling depend on who is conducting the sampling program. In West Virginia, several State and federal agencies evaluate water quality, as well as educational institutions, private industries, and others.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has a West Virginia Watersheds page with links to data and maps. DEP also has a Data page with links to groundwater and surface water information in the state.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) maintains a USGS Water-Quality Data for West Virginia page with links to their most recent Annual Water Data Reports and historical instantaneous flow data. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an interactive map showing potential sources of contamination, polluted waterways, and other information. USGS maintains the USGS Water-Quality Information Pages and Water Quality Trends Interactive Map.

Where can I get copies of water well logs?
County Health Departments maintain information about water-well drilling permits and water well logs, so please contact your local County Health Department. Other information is available at the Public Sanitation Division of the WV Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). WVGES does not maintain water-well data.

Where can I get a water table map?
WVGES does not maintain water-table information. The USGS has a West Virginia Active Water Level Network page with information on water wells it monitors.

Where can I find information about water in my area?
Information published by WVGES about water is available by watershed in the following WVGES publications: Please search the Keyword ''hydrology'' in our Publications Main Search page to find these and other water-related publications.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has a West Virginia Watersheds page with links to data and maps. DEP also has a Data page with links to groundwater and surface water information in the state.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) maintains a USGS Water-Quality Data for West Virginia page with links to their most recent Annual Water Data Reports and historical instantaneous flow data. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an interactive map showing potential sources of contamination, polluted waterways, and other information. USGS maintains the USGS Water-Quality Information Pages and Water Quality Trends Interactive Map. USGS also published groundwater atlases for the U.S. and their page has a link to the regional atlas (as a large PDF) that includes West Virginia.

[Coal, Mining, Mine Subsidence] [Oil and Gas] [General Geology, Geography] [Environmental Issues, Water, Springs] [Maps, Aerial Photographs, Satellite Imagery, GIS Data] [Geology as a Profession]        [WVGES Home Page]        (Return to top of FAQ Page)


Maps, Aerial Photographs, Satellite Imagery, GIS Data, LiDAR

Where can we get topographic maps for our hunting or camping trip?
Although the USGS has discontinued printing paper topographic maps, WVGES still has paper copies of many West Virginia quadrangles until we run out of them. Please stop by our offices or contact us at info@geosrv.wvnet.edu or (304) 594-2331 (ask for Pub Sales) about the availability of these and the two other topographic map series: 1:100,000-scale (30-minute by 60-minute), and 1:250,000-scale (1 degree by 2 degrees). We also have a few raised-relief (3D) ''maps'' left for sale. You can use our interactive topo map index to help you find which one you need.

How can I order topographic maps?
You can use our interactive topo map index to help you find which one you need. Please stop by our offices or contact us at info@geosrv.wvnet.edu or (304) 594-2331 (ask for Pub Sales) to place an order.

Where can I get old aerial photographs of my county? How about recent aerial photographs?
Old and recent aerial photographs are available through the Survey's Earth Science Information Center (ESIC). For prices and availability for your specific location, please contact us at info@geosrv.wvnet.edu or (304) 594-2331 (ask for information about air photos).

Where can I find maps and data on your web site?
We have several static maps, interactive maps and data sources on our web site. A good place to start is the maps and data files page, which has links to many of our maps and data. Our Interactive Mapping Portal has links to all of our coal, geothermal, broadband, topographic index, and oil and gas maps.

We sell GIS files (shapefiles, geodatabases, etc.,) from our bedrock maps. Links to free GIS data for our National Parks mapping can be found here.

We have completed several large projects and maintain other pages with mapping and data including Marcellus and other Devonian Shales, the Utica Play Book page, the Appalachian Basin Tight Gas Reservoirs Project, and the Trenton - Black River Project.

Where are your online, interactive Maps?
Our Interactive Mapping Portal has links to all of our interactive coal, geothermal, broadband, topographic index, and oil and gas maps. Our maps and data files page has links to many of our maps (static and interactive) and data.

Can I download air photos, satellite imagery, or LiDAR from your web site?
WVGES does not host aerial imagery online, but several other sources do. The WV GIS Technical Center has links to a variety of imagery and geospatial data for West Virginia on its GIS Data/Services page. The GIS Tech Center also maintains Map West Virginia, a mapping gateway for the state. West Virginia View has satellite and LiDAR imagery available for download. Finally, The WV Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) maintains a Geographic Information Server with GIS Data, Map Services, and applications of various types. WVDEP also has a WV Basemap Viewer where you can choose which base map to view, and a LiDAR viewer where you can see LiDAR availability and download some of the .las files. These sites also maintain representational state transfer (REST) web services for accessing imagery.

What other sources of West Virginia GIS data and maps exist outside of WVGES?
The sites mentioned above also have GIS data and maps. The WV GIS Technical Center hosts a variety of geospatial data for West Virginia on its GIS Data/Services page. The GIS Tech Center also maintains Map West Virginia, a mapping gateway for the state. West Virginia View has satellite and LiDAR imagery available for download. Finally, The WV Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) maintains a Geographic Information Server with GIS Data, Map Services, and applications of various types. WVDEP also has a WV Basemap Viewer where you can choose which base map to view. These sites also maintain representational state transfer (REST) web services for accessing GIS data and imagery.

[Coal, Mining, Mine Subsidence] [Oil and Gas] [General Geology, Geography] [Environmental Issues, Water, Springs] [Maps, Aerial Photographs, Satellite Imagery, GIS Data] [Geology as a Profession]        [WVGES Home Page]        (Return to top of FAQ Page)


Geology as a Profession

What classes should a student take in high school if he or she is interested in majoring in geology in college?
A high school college-prep program, including math classes through Algebra II, Trigonometry, Pre Calculus - calculus if possible - and four years of science will generally prepare a high school student to begin a college program in geology. In college, many geology departments require additional math (Calculus I and possibly Calculus II) and science (Chemistry and Physics in addition to Geology) as part of their degree programs.

What kinds of jobs are available for geologists? Where do geologists work?
Geologists are hired to work in federal/state/county/local governments, education at the secondary and college levels, private industry, in consulting, and investment firms (such as large banks), in a variety of capacities. They work in the following disciplines: energy and extractive mineral industries (oil and gas, coal, or other mineral resources); environmental geology; ground water or surface water; waste disposal; geomorphology; paleontology; marine geology; planetary sciences; analytical and computer applications; planning/engineering; and much, much more. For additional information, please see the Careers in the Geosciences section on the American Geological Institute's web site.

What are the requirements for becoming a registered geologist in West Virginia?
West Virginia does not have professional registration for geologists at this time. Other states such as Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Virginia do have formal registration or certification procedures. Some geologists practicing in West Virginia are licensed or registered in other states or are certified by such organizations as the American Institute of Professional Geologists. Most states that license geologists do so through the National Association of State Boards of Geology.

[Coal, Mining, Mine Subsidence] [Oil and Gas] [General Geology, Geography] [Environmental Issues, Water, Springs] [Maps, Aerial Photographs, Satellite Imagery, GIS Data] [Geology as a Profession]        [WVGES Home Page]        (Return to top of FAQ Page)


Page last revised June 20, 2017.
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