Editor's note: “Roadside Geology of Montana” is a finalist in the Medicine and Science category of the 2021 High Plains Book Awards.
Tourists from around the world flock to Montana to observe our region’s spectacular geologic features. Consider the fact that much of what the world knows about dinosaurs comes from Montana’s badland fossils. Our Yellowstone caldera was one of the world’s largest and most violent volcanoes. The mountains where we ski, hike and camp today are the product of forces at work hundreds of millions of years ago. We live in a pretty interesting place!
“Roadside Geology of Montana” is a complete revision of the 1972 Roadside Geology of the Northern Rockies by David Alt and Donald Hyndman. This new iteration begins with an introductory chapter providing a broad overview of the ancient forces that created our diverse Montana landscape. It goes on to identify geologic history and the resultant interesting natural features to be found along nearly every major highway. For example, in the section of US 89 from Livingston to Gardiner, the authors describe in detail the geologic significance of the fossil walls of Hepburn’s Mesa, south of Emigrant. Continuing along the route, readers are directed to the delights of the Gallatin Petrified Forest Interpretive Trail, the igneous and metamorphic rock wall of Yankee Jim Canyon, and the scientific origins of the “Devil’s Slide.” The book also highlights spectacular features that can be seen only by river, such as the Upper Missouri River Breaks between Coal Banks Landing and Judith Landing. Regarding Glacier Park, the authors advise readers to go see the glaciers the park is named for—while you can.
Roadside Geology of Montana features numerous illustrations and photos to add interest and additional information. This is a serious book that provides an abundance of commentary on the diverse and fascinating geologic history of our State. This guide is a worthy endeavor for anyone genuinely interested in the land, how it was formed, and how it has been changed by nature and by human activity. The authors shine a bright light on the uniqueness of our region’s wild places, earning a place as a finalist in this year’s High Plains Book Awards Medicine and Science Category.
Dianna Linder is Director of Grants and Program Development for the Billings Clinic Foundation.