North Dakota's unique geologic story is primarily that of glaciers, representing one of the youngest glacially shaped regions in the country. The importance of Cenozoic glacial research is enormous—the climatic shifts that resulted in the growth and recession of "Ice Age" glaciers provide vital information about long-term trends in order to understand and predict how our climate will change in the near future.
North Dakota is one of the best regions in the country to recognize glacial geomorphology; however, the landforms created by glacial erosion, deposition, and subsidence can be subtle and difficult to identify for nongeologists, and many common features to the North Dakotan landscape which formed as a direct result of glacial movement are not widely recognized as attributable to glaciers. In North Dakota's Geologic Legacy, John Bluemle skillfully describes various North Dakota regions that have been sculpted by glaciers or blanketed by their sediments in language that can be understood by any reader.
In addition to the glacial features, Bluemle relates peripheral, underlying geologic features which connect to surrounding states and Canada: the Bakken basin to the north, the Badlands to the southwest, the buttes of the Cannonball and Hell Creek formations to the south, and the younger Red River Valley to the east. Each of [End Page 96] these structures can be related to geologic histories in a broader context, linking more familiar, widespread geologic features with the glacial history of the state.
Bluemle divides the state into several large swaths to describe the formation and subsequent erosion of each region, providing color photographs of specific landforms that illustrate the processes he has outlined. Many descriptions and photographs are accompanied by charming personal stories of his time as state geologist of North Dakota, interacting with people in the state over the course of his decades-long career. In this way, the book is sometimes like a memoir, and anyone who has spent time in North Dakota will recognize the characters he describes. Bluemle's photographs of the region are often spectacular, and he typically includes information about how to get to the off-road features and what they look like today, if significantly altered since the taking of the image. The book also includes excellent diagrams that would be useful to any teacher of geomorphology or related topics.
North Dakota's Geologic Legacy strikes a great balance between science, exploration, and history of the state of North Dakota, and is a great companion book for those looking to learn more about the region.