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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Geological Survey

by Robert E. Ireland, 2006

Logo for the the N.C. Geological Survey, 2015. Courtesy of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

See also: Link to U.S. Geologic Survey Geologic Map of North Carolina (interactive)

The North Carolina Geological Survey (NCGS), which researches all aspects of the state's geology and natural resources, was founded by University of North Carolina professor Denison Olmsted in 1822 under a $250 per year appropriation by the General Assembly. In 1825, on Olmsted's departure for Yale, Dr. Elisha Mitchell assumed the direction of the survey and completed the third volume of Olmsted's report. The legislature failed to fund the survey after 1825 due to an economic panic that gripped the state that year, and it was discontinued in 1828. The survey was revived in 1851 and led by Ebenezer Emmons until 1864.

Beginning in the early 1900s, the NCGS was enlarged in scope to become the Geological and Economic Survey, which geologist Joseph Hyde Pratt controlled until his departure for France in World War I. The survey headquarters, located in Chapel Hill, had become very active in the North Carolina Good Roads Association, and by 1918 both the survey and the association were administered by civic and political activist Harriet Morehead Berry. In 1923 Pratt was politically eliminated from the survey, and in 1925 it was renamed the Department of Conservation and Development.

Link to 1985 Geologic Map of North Carolina.  From North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The modern NCGS, under the administrative control of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, has grown to encompass broader research goals, such as the creation of geologic and topographic maps, the gathering of mineral resource and geochemical information, and the establishment of environmental and earth science educational programs.







Additional Resources:

North Carolina Geological Survey official website:

Olmstead, Deniston. Papers on agricultural subjects and Professor Olmstead's report on the geology of part of the western counties of North Carolina. Raleigh, N.C.: J. Gales and Son, 1825.

Emmons, EbenezerReport of Professor Emmons, on His Geological Survey of North Carolina. Raleigh, N.C.: Seaton Gales, printer to the legislature, 1852.

North Carolina Geological Survey. Geologic map of North Carolina: North Carolina Geological Survey, General Geologic Map1985. (accessed April 25, 2016).

Image Credits:

North Carolina Geological Survey Logo, North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. 2015. April 25, 2016).

NCDENR, North Carolina Geological Survey. Geologic map of North Carolina: North Carolina Geological Survey, General Geologic Map. 1985. (accessed April 25, 2016).



I work for the NC Geological Survey and when I navigated to your page yesterday, I noticed a few things on this page that could get updated. Our official website changed, which would affect the link to the geology map and the logo (which got a mild modification in 2015). The NCGS is also in the Department of Environmental Quality.

North Carolina Geological Survey official website:

1985 Geology map

NCGS logo

Thank you.


Hi Michael,

Thanks so much for letting us know!! I have updated the links as well as adding the updated logo image.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library

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