Rock Garden FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about the Rock Garden

Fred Webb Jr

Why build a rock garden?
Geology is the study of the earth, and one of the fundamental observations of geology is that the bedrock is distinct in different places. It is exceedingly difficult to take all students to see this variation in the field, so we chose to bring the rocks to the Appalachian community.

Where does the name come from?
The laboratory (rock garden) was created by Appalachian geology professors and alumni to commemorate the 30+ year career of Fred Webb, Jr., the first chair of the Department of Geology.

Rock GardenWhere is the outdoor lab?
The rock garden is between Rankin Science South and West, diagonally opposite Edwin Duncan Hall.
(Here's a larger map). You can even see the rock garden on Google Earth!

How many specimens are there?
The main garden area holds 33 specimens, and there are three more by the parking lot between Edwin Duncan Hall and Rankin Science West, for a total of 36 (including the stone benches).

What kinds of rocks are in the garden?
All kinds! Igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks are all represented. Some boulders include more than one type.

How old are the specimens?
Geologists using a relative time scale would call these rocks anywhere from late Mesoproterozoic to Pennsylvanian in age. On a numerical timescale, the oldest rock may be as much as 1.3 billion years old, and the youngest is still 300 million years old.

Students at garden

Where do the rocks come from?
Most specimens are from North Carolina, but seven are from Virginia, five (including the sandstone bench) are from Tennessee, and another is from South Carolina. All are part of the story of the Appalachians, and departmental alumni made the acquisition of all the specimens possible.

Who picked out the specimens?
The specimens were selected by Appalachian Geology Faculty (including many hand-picked by Dr. Webb himself). Every specimen was chosen because it represents an outstanding example of some aspect of geology.

Installing rocks

How did the rocks get there?
Alumni arranged for the transportation of most specimens. Pinnacle Mountain Contracting (B. Elliston, '03) placed the first 13 rocks and Vulcan Materials Corporation donated 10 boulders from their quarries, hauling these and several others up the mountain and placing them in the garden. The Appalachian State University Physical Plant was also instrumental in rock placement and brought the specimen down from Kidd Brewer Stadium.

Who donated the rocks?
Vulcan Materials Corporation donated 10 boulders, and other companies (NC Granite, Feldspar Corporation, etc.) donated specimens from their mines. Pinnacle Mountain Contracting helped us collect most of the others from public and private land owners. Only three were bought and even these were delivered free of charge by Greene's Masonry Supply.

If many of these rocks come from quarries, why are they quarried?
Vulcan Materials Corporation is one of leading suppliers of aggregate (sand, gravel, crushed rock, etc.) in the nation. Aggregate is essential to modern society as it is used in concrete, road construction, building construction, etc. North Carolina is ranked eigth in the nation in producing crushed rock (85% of aggregate use). NC Granite mines the Mount Airy Granite as a decorative stone (known by the trade name of "Caesar White"). The Feldspar Corporation mines the Spruce Pine Pegmatite for many purposes, including manufacturing everything from computer chips to porcelain to make-up!

Students studying garden

How did you get the plaque in the granite?
Greene's Masonry Supply in Boone donated the time and effort to cut a notch in the Mt. Airy Granite for the plaque.

Who can visit the rock garden?
Anyone can visit the garden, anytime (we recommend during the day for best results). School groups, scouts, summer camps, the campus day care facility, and other organizations have all visited the garden.

Is the garden accessible to persons with disabilities?
Thanks to Appalachian State University's Academic Affairs and Physical Plant, a concrete and paver trail through the rock garden is accessible except after significant snowfall events.

Student studyingHow can I learn more?
Every specimen in the garden has a sign telling its geologic name ("Formation"), age in relative and numerical timescales, geological province ("Blue Ridge," "Piedmont," etc.), county of origin, and, if applicable, donor. Visit our Interactive Rock Garden Website to learn more about each rock in the rock garden, including age, location, tectonic setting, chemistry, and more.

Can someone talk to us about the garden?
Yes! To have a geology faculty member or student speak to you and your group about the garden, please contact Dr. Andy Heckert.

I don't remember the garden from my time at Appalachian. When was it built?
The first rock garden specimens were brought in during April, 2007. It has expanded several times and was formally dedicated in April, 2008.

What classes use the rock garden?
Most geology classes, from 1000 (freshman-level) to 3000 level (junior- and senior-level classes) use the rock garden for exercises ranging from beginning to advanced. Many other classes use the garden as well, including courses in Sustainable Development, Education, History, and others.

Speaking of rocks, what's the rock at The Rock (Kidd Brewer Stadium)?
The rock at The Rock is a metamorphic rock that is part of the Grandfather Mountain Formation. It is from the Neoproterozoic and is approximately 750 million years old. As old as that sounds, the rocks Kidd Brewer Stadium is built on are even older - the Cranberry Formation in Boone is Mesoproterozoic and over 1 billion years old, making it one of the oldest rocks in North Carolina!


Contact (schedules/visits/questions)

Dr. Andrew Heckert
(828) 262-7609

108 Rankin Science South
572 Rivers Street
Boone, NC 28608

Open: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. M-F (during semester)
Closed: Weekends, University holidays, weather closures

Department of Geology

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