From the mighty Mississippi River to the ancient Appalachian mountains, Tennessee hosts many magnificent landforms -- including bat caves, meteor craters, waterfalls and wild mountains carpeted with rich forests.

But Tennessee's beauty isn't just skin deep. Our state also has a fascinating geologic history.

Like barges floating on the churning liquid magna below, our continental plates have slowly rafted across the planet, sometimes wedging together to form mountain ranges, other times tearing apart to create seas, their floors replenished by lava from spreading seams on the ocean floor.

Appalachian Orogony


About 500 million years ago, the North American craton collided with Iapetus, thrusting up the Appalachians in an event called the Taconic Orogeny. Once greater than the Rockies, this range would slowly be tamed by time, eroded into the Smoky Mountains that are now one of Tennessee's biggest tourist attractions. On the next page, try selecting different time eras to see how Tennessee has changed.