See this aerial view from google maps. Massanutten is in the foreground, as straight as an arrow. The Appalachians are on either side, looking like more typical mountains, zig-zagging with outcroppings in every direction. I was lucky enough to find this video on exactly this topic, but I have zero geology knowledge, so it went completely over my head. Can anyone explain it in very simple terms?


1 Answer 1


If you look a wider view from above and a bit to the west, you will notice Massanutten is not that straight nor is it unique most of the surrounding mountains are the same, especially to west. Basically you camera is pointed in exactly the wrong direction to see the other mountains.

on a geologic map it becomes even more obvious. enter image description here

A false color which hides the difference in plant life makes it even easier. enter image description here

You can picture the appalachians as a flat section of rock that has been compressed like an accordion east to west, that's why they are more or less parallel, but not perfectly parallel becasue the rock is not completely uniform in strength or hardness. Plus the compression has a bit of a curve to it making it even less uniform.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! You're right, it looks like I should have instead asked: why does the easternmost ridge (Blue Ridge?) looks so distinct from the ridges to the west? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ If you look at the geology map you will notice the blue ridge contains different rock than the rest of the appalachians, it contains more volcanics and less sedimentary material, so their are a small number of large folds/faults instead of many smaller ones, and it also weathers more uniformly. instead of being alternating layer of hard and soft it is more like a single blob. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 15:46

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