You are here

National Park Quiz 42: Rocks and Minerals

Death Valley’s Harmony Borax Works. Do you know what mineral was named for the man who owned this operation? Bob Janiskee photo.

1. True or false? Most arches at Arches National Park are composed of the same basic kind of rock as the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park.

2 True or false? Yellowstone National Park would be a good place to visit if you wanted to photograph an outcropping of obsidian.

3 True or false? One of the prime visitor attractions of Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Site is a ranger-led tour of an historic gold mine.

4. True or false? You can see plenty of agatized dolomite, a substance with excellent conchoidal fracture properties, in Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument.

5. Keweenaw National Historic Site was established to preserve and interpret heritage sites closely associated with the mining and processing of
a. silver
b. gold
c. copper
d. kyanite

6. The rock that Indians quarried at ______ in Minnesota was traded as far east as Georgia and as far west as the Pacific Coast.
a. Pipestone National Monument
b. Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
c. Effigy Mounds National Monument
d. Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site

7. If you take the Violet City Lantern Tour in Mammoth Cave National Park you can see the remains of a historic mining operation that supplied ______ for military use in the War of 1812.
a. sulfur
b. lead
c. saltpeter
d. iron

8. If you’d like to see what a relic coal tipple looks like, check out the Blue Heron Coal Tipple at
a. Shenandoah National Park
b. Cuyahoga Valley National Park
c. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
d. Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

9. Pronounced like “tough,” and abundantly visible along the Tuff Canyon Trail in Big Bend National Park, the rock known as tuff consists of consolidated
a. quartz particles
b. calcite crystals
c. feldspar crystals
d. volcanic ash

10. Mines producing ores rich in ______ were of vital importance to the industrial operations preserved at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.
a. hematite and magnetite
b. malachite and pyrite
c. silica and soda ash
d. lead and zinc

Extra credit question:

11. Once the focus of an emotional debate over a proposed ski resort development, historic Mineral King Valley is now part of _____ and popular with hikers.
a. Rocky Mountain National Park
b. Sequoia National Park
c. North Cascades National Park
d. Yosemite National Park

Super bonus question:

12. The mineral ____ was named for the owner of the Harmony Borax Works, the remains of which are preserved near Furnace Creek in Death Valley National Park.
a. colemanite
b. andersonite
c. pearsonite
d. salomonite


(1) False.  Most of the arches at Arches National Park consist of eroded sandstone. The hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park, on the other hand, consist of layers of limestone (which predominates), dolomite, siltstone, and mudstone, each of which erodes at a different rate. The limestone and dolomite, being more erosion-resistant, function as caprock.

2) True.  Yellowstone’s half mile-long Obsidian Cliff is one of America’s most archeologically significant deposits of the dark colored volcanic glass called obsidian. Projectile points and tools made of obsidian from Yellowstone have been found throughout much of western and central North America.

(3) False.  Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Site, which has units in Washington and Alaska, tells the story of the 1897-1898 stampede to Canada’s Yukon gold fields, including Seattle’s role as the main outfitting port for the gold rush. There are no gold mines in this park.

(4) True.  The flinty substance that Indians dug out of the ground at Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument is actually agatized dolomite. Conchoidal fracture, which yields curved breakage surfaces in fine-grained material, is the property of the rock that enables flint knappers to create tools with well defined shapes and sharp edges.

(5) c –- Although copper mining is no longer a major industry in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, the rich copper deposits there were mined for over a century beginning in the 1840s. That’s the principal story that Keweenaw National Historic Site tells.

(6) a -– Pipestone National Monument in southwestern Minnesota is where various Indian tribes quarried fine-grained red catlinite (common name pipestone) that was – and still is -- used to manufacture peace pipes. Since high-quality pipestone deposits are quite scarce, both the raw material and the finished product were carried far and wide as coveted trade items.

(7) c -– The crude mining operation in Mammoth Cave produced saltpeter, a key ingredient of gunpowder, by water-leaching calcium nitrate from the dirt on the cave floor. The saltpeter operation was shut down after the War of 1812 ended and the demand for saltpeter steeply declined.

(8) d –- At the historic Blue Heron coal mining community, now part of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, the huge central coal loading facility (called a tipple) has been restored for exhibit.

(9) d -– Tuff is a comparatively soft and porous volcanic rock that is produced through the compacting and cementing of volcanic ash deposits. It comes in a variety of forms, depending on the nature of the materials and the consolidation process.

(10) a -- The industrial operations preserved at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site produced iron and also manufactured iron products, including cannons. Nearby mines supplied ores rich in two iron oxide minerals, hematite (the main iron ore) and magnetite.

(11) b -– Scenic Mineral King Valley is located at an elevation of about 7,800 feet in the southern part of Sequoia National Park. The valley became part of the national park in 1978 after a Sierra Club-spearheaded campaign blocked construction of a proposed ski resort.

(12) a -- Named for William Tell Coleman, owner of Death Valley’s Harmony Borax Works, colemanite is the registered name for hydrated calcium borate hydroxide, a borax mineral that was first identified in 1884.

Grading: 9 or 10 correct, rest on your laurels; 7 or 8 correct, pretty darn good; 6 correct, passably fair; 5 or fewer correct, nothing to brag about.


Nice photo of the Harmony Borax Works at Death Valley - but you got me on the super bonus question!

It's nice to know that even the experts find some of these quiz items challenging, Jim. Be sure to let me know if these little quizzies get too easy for you.

On question 1 isn't the Claron limestone and Entrada sandstone?

According to the NPS website the Claron Formation is limestone.

You've convinced me, Kevin. I'll go back and fix that one. Although the Claron Formation does contain sandstone (also mudstone, siltstone, and dolomite), it is mostly limestone, and it's just wrong to call the hoodoos sandstone formations.

What a great quiz! I really liked this one, made me think beyond just park travel ("hmm, obsidian is a product of vulcanism, right?").

9 correct. :)


My travels through the National Park System:

Nine? Really? I'm impressed, Barky. BTW, did you go back and re-check question #1? The correct answer is "false", though it was initially indicated as "true" (because I goofed it up). Yes, obsidian is an igneous rock produced by extrusive vulcanism. It's actually glass, not a mineral, because of very quick cooling on the surface (no time for crystals to form, so it's amorphous).

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide