Washington Geological Survey celebrates 125th birthday

Geologists have been chipping away at the mountain of geologic history that has formed Washington for the past 125 years. DNR photo
Geologists have been chipping away at the mountain of geologic history that has formed Washington for the past 125 years. DNR photo

Since Feb. 25, 1890, geologists have been documenting what makes Washington. And, though it’s not even a blip on the geologic clock, Washington has found out quite a bit about its foundation in the subsequent 125 years.

Observations those geologists have gleaned from walking over rocks, crawling through mines and reading map after map after map have given us insights into the age-old forces that made our state the geologic marvel it is.

George Bethune was appointed Washington’s first geologist. His initial annual report “The Mines and Minerals of Washington” provided Governor Charles E. Laughton and the legislature an assessment of the state’s mining industry and mineral deposits.

Since Bethune, Washington has had nine state geologists, including the current state geologist David Norman.

The hundreds of scientists who have worked toward a better understanding of Washington’s geology have published thousands of maps, reports and assessments of geologic hazards.

Hard copies of those reports are available in the Washington Geology Library in Olympia, but the geologic survey has worked hard to incorporate them into an interactive online mapping tool that can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.

Recently, the Washington Geologic Survey, also known as DNR’s Geology and Earth Resources Division, has focused on geologic mapping and hazard assessments to produce up-to-date geologic data and maps that can be incorporated into land use and disaster management planning.

The survey also still helps oversees a $1 billion mining industry that employs nearly 10,000 people across Washington.

You can keep up with the most current knowledge of Washington’s geology by staying tuned to the Washington State Geology News blog.

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