LARSON: Some names just prone to being spellbound

Susan Larson

Built on a rock. I’ve long been aware that Gwinnett County does indeed trace its beginnings back to a rock and that rocks continue to shape our history.

The word “Rockbridge” comes from a point on the Yellow River where a rock shoal allowed travelers to cross the river easily and this site was the first bearing used by surveyors in Gwinnett.

The Vulcan Quarry in Norcross, a 100-acre, 400-foot deep hole in the ground, is one of the largest in the country. And then there are those mysterious rock piles at Little Mulberry Park, certainly something to pique one’s imagination about Gwinnett’s past.

I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about rocks all around the state until I saw “Roadside Geology in Georgia,” by local authors Pamela J.W. Gore and William Witherspoon.

“The book will be useful for families to take along to Georgia outdoor destinations,” Witherspoon said. “If you’ve tubed the Chattahoochee in Helen, left tracks in the sand on Tybee Island, or glided up the Summit Skyride at Stone Mountain, you’ve had a rock adventure. This book lets you spice those adventures up with a little science by understanding the geology behind the Georgia landmarks we encounter whenever we go outside in Georgia.”

The book illustrates other Gwinnett rocks I was completely unaware of, like outcrops of mylonitic metagraywacke in the Brevard fault zone on Lake Lanier. OK, I can’t even pronounce it, but the picture in the book is so captivating it does make me want to go up there and see it in real life. The authors also give driving directions for finding rock formations off Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road, Pleasant Hill Road, Buford Highway and Ga. Highway 124 along with interesting facts about the earthquakes that rocked Dacula.

As I was researching these rocks I stumbled across another gem we have here in Gwinnett. It just so happens that the Georgia Mineral Society meets in Norcross on first Mondays.

“We are the oldest and largest gem and mineral club in the Southeast with over 750 members including more than 175 junior members,” GMS President, William Waggener said. “We support education through a Speaker Bureau outreach, presentations to Teacher Education programs, mini-grants to classroom teachers, and presentations to the public through libraries, rock and gem festivals, and shows.”

Activities include everything from lapidary work and making jewelry for advanced members to monthly rock gathering field trips for newer members and quarterly meeting for juniors under the age of 16.

The next GMS supported show will be the Mammoth Rock Show at the North Atlanta Trade Center during the second weekend of December. In the meantime, you might want to pick up the book.

“I highly recommend Pam and Bill’s long-awaited book,” Waggener said. “Families will enjoy recognizing and appreciating ‘the rocks by the road’ during their Georgia road trips. The information is useful and accurate to geologic standards.”

And that really rocks!

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Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. Email her at

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