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Geology of Table Rock - 8th - Pre-site Activity/Teacher Led

Grade Level: 8
Content Area:
Time to Complete: 45 minutes
Title of Program:
Patterns in the Rocks

South Carolina State Standards Addressed:

8-1.1 Design a controlled scientific investigation.
8-1.2 Recognize the importance of a systematic process for safely and accurately conducting investigations.
8-1.3 Construct explanations and conclusions from interpretations of data obtained during a controlled scientific investigations.
8-1.4 Generate questions for further study on the basis of prior investigations.
8-1.5 Explain the importance of and requirements for replication of scientific investigations.
8-1.6 Use appropriate tools and instruments.
8-1.7 Use appropriate safety procedures when conducting investigations.
8-3.7 Illustrate the creation and changing landforms that have occurred through geologic processes (including volcanic eruptions and mountain-building forces).
8-3.9 Identify and illustrate geologic features of South Carolina and other regions of the world through the use of imagery (including aerial photography and satellite imagery) and topographic maps.

Lesson Description:

Students will use a topographic map and an infrared map to trace the pattern created by several streams in the area of Table Rock State Park. Using a protractor, they will measure the angles of the changes the stream makes in its path. They will generate a hypothesis to explain unusual stream patterns.

Focus Questions for Students:

1. How are different size streams portrayed on a topographic map?
2. How does an area devoid of vegetation, such as rock faces, appear on an infrared map?
3. What factors affect the angle at which a stream bends?
4. How can you measure stream bend angles with a protractor?

Culminating Assessment:

  Use the Table Rock Lithograph to test the hypothesis generated in the stream bend activity by determining the angles of intersection of the rock faces of Table Rock Mountain
  Compare these angles to the angles of the stream pattern.

Materials/Equipment/Resources (Per Group):

Table Rock lithograph

wipe-off pens (2 different colors)

Table Rock topographic map


vocabulary data tables

Teacher Preparation:

1. Read background information.
2. Be prepared to explain unique features of topographic and infrared maps.
3. Look over the Table Rock Topographic Map and the Table Rock Lithograph to be sure you can locate all the map features mentioned in this activity, and that you can demonstrate how to use a protractor to measure angles of stream course changes. Be sure to measure the stream bend as the amount it deviated from a straight course.

Background Information:

The Table Rock Topographic Map is based on the USGS 7.5 minute series and has a scale of 1:24,000. Topographic maps use contour lines to show the shape of the earth's surface. The contour interval is dependent on the relief of the landscape and is commonly 40 feet on Blue Ridge maps. All USGS maps use standard symbols; hydrographic feature such as lakes and rivers are shown in blue. Many of the creeks in the Table Rock area make repeated near-right angle bends. This unusual pattern is caused by the underlying fracture pattern in the rocks.
   The infrared photograph was taken during the winter months when deciduous trees are in their leaf-off season. Interpretation of the various intensities of infrared hues, or false colors, yields information about vegetative ground cover, trees, physical geography, pollution problems, and land use. See the chart below for clues for interpreting colors on the Table Rock Lithograph.

Interpreting the Table Rock Infrared Image




shades of red
   bright red
   dark red

healthy vegetation
   winter crops -- rye, oats, wheat
   evergreen trees-- pines, conifers


dormant vegetation
   deciduous trees -- hickory, oak, maple

light blue

developed areas
   cities, quarries, paved areas


barren areas
   rock exposures, cliffs

    For more information refer to the background information from the SC MAPS Teaching Manual, 2000 Edition, pages 40-44 or read any upper level earth science textbook.


1. Arrange students in groups of 3 or 4.
2. On the Table Rock Topographic Map locate Little Table Rock Creek.  Use a wipe-off pen to mark a dot at its headwaters near Grunting Spring Gap and its terminus at Table Rock Reservoir.
**Note that the Little Table Rock Creek watershed displays a typical dendritic drainage pattern. Every stream will tend to have this same pattern unless there is some underlying geologic structure that affects the direction of stream flow, generating a different pattern.
3. Next, use a protractor to measure the angles formed by the first five bends in this creek. Record your data in Table 1.
4. Now locate the South Saluda River.  Mark a dot where the stream enters Table Rock Reservoir and its farthest point upstream from that body of water.
5. Starting at the reservoir, use the protractor to measure the angles formed by five of the bends in this stream.  Record your data in Table 2.
6. Finally, locate Green Creek near the bold words "Table Rock State Park", which is the area you will be hiking on your field trip.  Mark a dot where this stream enters Pinnacle Lake and its farthest point upstream from that body of water.
7. Starting at the lake, use the protractor to measure the angles formed by five bends in this creek.  Record your data in Table 2.
8. Now compare your data on stream angles from the Little Table Rock Creek (Table 1) with the stream angles from the other two streams (Table 2).  What major differences do you see in the data?
9. Because the streams in Table 2 are not typical there must be some underlying geologic reason for the unusual pattern. Based on what you know about the geology of the Blue Ridge Region, generate an hypothesis to explain the unusual pattern of stream bends.


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