Geology of the Pacific Northwest
The geology of the Pacific Northwest refers to the study of the composition (including rock, minerals, and soils), structure, physical properties and the processes that shape the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and Canada. The geology of the region produces much of the area's scenic beauty and also causes periodic catastrophes, such as volcanoes and earthquakes.There are at least five geologic provinces in the area: the Cascade Volcanoes, the Columbia Plateau, the North Cascades, the Coast Mountains, and the Insular Mountains. The Cascade Volcanoes are an active volcanic region along the western side of the Pacific Northwest. The Columbia Plateau is a region of subdued geography that is inland of the Cascade Volcanoes, and the North Cascades are a mountainous region in the northwest corner of the United States, extending into British Columbia. The Coast Mountains and Insular Mountains are a strip of mountains along the coast of British Columbia, each with its own geological history.The geology of the Pacific Northwest is vast, complex and confusing. Most of the region was formed about 200 million years ago as the North American Plate started to drift westward during the rupture of Pangaea. Since that date, the western edge of North America has grown westward as a succession of island arcs and assorted ocean-floor rocks have been added along the continental margin.