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Rainbows of Rock, Tables of Stone -Reviews

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Natural Arch and Bridge Society (NABS) member Tim Snyder has written a comprehensive book on the natural arches, bridges and pillars of Ohio. Entitled Rainbows of Rock, Tables of Stone, Snyder’s book delves into the most intimate details of Ohio’s natural arches and how they were formed (428 pages, including photos, color photos and appendices). Readers of this book will become well educated on the geology of the entire state, and how that geology helped to form arches via geological processes on both the macro and micro scales. Since much of the State of Ohio is privately owned (and thus is inaccessible for this reason), he has included a section called “Publicly Accessible Arches and Pillars” which should prove to be especially valuable for NABS arch hunters visiting the state.

A huge factor in the formation of many of Ohio’s arches was glaciation. Snyder provides very understandable, concise and sometimes fascinating text so that even laymen (non-geologists) can make sense of it all. He tells the stories of how stream flows were reversed, gorges were cut and caves were formed by the tremendous power of the flowing ice sheets and their subsequent melting.

In addition to the science of it all, Snyder provides very interesting historical notes and photos. He even provides historical notes and photos on arches that have fallen!

Those who have never been to Ohio (or those who have been there but never knew about its beautiful arches) will surely want to make the trip after reading this book.

Snyder refers to the NABS Standards and Definitions, and for the most part follows those standards and definitions, except that he refers to the height of an arch as its “clearance.”

The last third of this book covers the natural pillars of Ohio, providing even more scenic options for the arch hunter as s/he travels the state in search of its natural arches and bridges.

Tim spent many years (1980-2005) with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, working first with its Division of Parks and Recreation and then, for most of his career, with its Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. - Tom Van Bebber, President of the Natural Arch and Bridge Society (NABS), creators of SPAN, 2009 edition; President of Stone Canyon Media Corp., creator of the World Arch Database.

"Rainbows of Rock, Tables of Stone is an in-depth guide to natural geographic formations in Ohio; the text gives identifications, description, and interpretation of the 86 arches and 18 pillars known to exist in the state. Additional information concerning the bedrock geology of Ohio, the manner in which such amazing features are created, as well as the ways such features gradually vanish from the landscape further round out this admirably in-depth review. Black-and-white photographs on almost every page add a visual touch to this worthy contribution to regional geology shelves. - James A. Cox, The Midwest Book Review, Small Press Bookwatch, July 2009

"Tim Snyder, who has spent more than a quarter of a century tracking down some of Ohio's most spectacular and intriguing geological formations, now presents his findings in an attractive, well-illustrated guide to Ohio's natural arches and stone pillars (familiarly known as rock bridges and tea tables or standing stones). More than a collection of photographs and descriptions, this compilation includes detailed explanations of the manner in which these limestone and sandstone oddities have been formed, along with speculation about the eventual decay and demise of what in Nature's book are, ultimately, transient features. These geological 'sports of nature' are handily arranged by geologic unit rather than a county-by-county approach (although a county index is also provided), thus underscoring and adding to the geological context of their occurrence. Although Snyder indicates that this study is incomplete and that numerous as yet unknown examples probably remain to be found or reported, Rainbows of Rock, Tables of Stone is unparalleled by any other similar guide in its completeness and thoroughness. As such, the volume almost inevitably also serves as a unique guide to some of Ohio's most beautiful and intriguing scenery." - James L. Murphy, Professor Emeritus, Ohio State University Libraries

"For me this book was an easy and pleasant read, as well as an exciting revelation into the natural history and astounding abundance of natural arches in Ohio. Snyder writes with geological accuracy, but in a manner that anyone can readily understand, even if they are not a professional or even an amateur geologist. It is written for every citizen of Ohio. He writes with an obvious passion for the subject that engages the reader and makes you want to get out there and see more of Ohio’s geological heritage in the form of natural arches, bridges and pillars.

Anyone contemplating picking up this book should know first of all what it is not. This book is not a mere catalog of arches and pillars. That is done as part of this book, and that alone is an astounding list that would surprise most Ohioans. It is not a detailed guide on how to visit all the arches and pillars in Ohio. About two-thirds of all Ohio’s arches and pillars are on private land, and privacy of the private landowners is protected in this book. The need and desire by the public to personally experience the state’s arches and pillars is addressed, however, by 41 pages of excellent and detailed information on how to visit the one-third of the state’s arches and pillars that can be found on public land.

This book is much more than a listing of arches and pillars or a tour guide to visiting these fascinating geological features. It provides an interesting and easy to understand explanation of how natural arches form. It provides a stimulus and a challenge to other explorer-minded Ohioans to expand the list; and it also provides explanations of how to measure and record information on natural arches. Chapters one and two review the nomenclature of arches, explain the differences between natural arches and natural bridges, and explain six different geological processes that have formed these features in Ohio. The illustrations, both line drawings and photographs, make understanding the geological process clear, providing the reader with tools to better read the landscape for themselves.

I think most Ohioans can share in Snyder’s growing amazement at the number of arches that appear in Ohio. Snyder began his project in 1983 when he first learned that perhaps there were two arches or bridges in Ohio. Shortly after that he learned that there were perhaps a dozen arches or bridges. I was amazed to learn from him a few years later that Ohio actually had more than 40 natural arches and bridges. Now Snyder’s list has grown to 83 arches/bridges and 18 pillars to be found in Ohio! Snyder suggests that the publication of this book may be a stimulus to make the book out-of-date as people discover and/or report additional arches and pillars never before known to the general public. I suspect his prediction will prove true.

As a naturalist working for the Ohio Historical Society, I was most pleased to read in chapter three that:

The greatest local concentration of arches in the entire state is found in the gorge of Baker Fork, much of which is fortunately protected within the boundaries of Fort Hill State Memorial operated by the Ohio Historical Society.

Fort Hill has always been one of my favorite sites in Ohio, with its 1200 acres of semi-wilderness and eleven miles of remote hiking trails. Snyder’s descriptions and explanations of the area’s natural arches only add to my enjoyment and understanding of this wonderful site. However, I’m thrilled and challenged to learn of so many other wonderful natural places around Ohio that contain such a wide diversity of equally interesting arches. Will I ever get to see them all? Perhaps not, but at least I have a tool to help me explore some of them and to better understand those that can be seen. Each of us can learn from his book and use it as a starting point to personal adventures.

I believe that Snyder has summed up my feelings for his work most effectively in his epilogue, where he says:

Adventure is where you find it, and sometimes it is closer than one might think. What began as a short-term casual project to locate and record Ohio’s natural arches soon evolved into a grand adventure that rarely took me more than an easy half-day’s drive from my own familiar back yard. In the process, I found an Ohio richer and more fascinating than I could have imagined. Beyond our expanding cities and wide farm fields there still exist echoes of an earlier time when the forces of Nature reigned over all and the works of Man were almost inconsequential.

In several places throughout the book Snyder shares his deep-seated sense of value and responsibility – his conservation ethic for natural bridges, arches and pillars. He refers to them as

an inheritance beyond price. They are the seedbeds of future greatness, a savings account protecting immense possibilities, a responsibility to be handed on to future generations.

Snyder calls upon all who visit and explore these geological wonders not only to enjoy them, but to conserve them for future generations. He recognizes that his own effort to gather and preserve the information on Ohio’s arches is only a starting place. It has been a major, 26-year work of adventure, excitement, hard work and, yes, one of love. But if we collectively and individually don’t respect and preserve these features, they could be lost – and some he documents have already been lost. Knowing Tim personally, I know this ethic applies to his own life and how he treats all of our natural heritage, whether that be geological, floral or faunal. This book shares his adventure and his love with all who read it, and is therefore a grand monument to his 26 years of work on this project. Thank you Tim!" - Robert C. Glotzhober, Senior Curator, Natural History, Ohio Historical Society