“O Courel” Fold

The O Courel Fold is one of the sparse geological protected landscapes in Spain. It’s a beautiful recumbent syncline fold on sandstone and shales, with a very good overview by the road on the other side of a valley.

Original fold image
O Courel fold

Located in eastern Galicia (any Camino de Santiago fans out there?), it is cut through by a small river on the green hills of the O Courel mountain range. For the rock enthusiasts, you’ll want to know the fold alternates strata of sandstone and clay-rich shales. For the tree enthusiasts, the area has some of the coolest looking, Tolkien-like forests you’ll find. Worth the visit!

Map detailing the situation of the fold and the information panel. Click on the image to see it bigger.
Map detailing the situation of the fold and the information panel. Click on the image to see it bigger.

To get there, you have to drive to Quiroga, and there follow the directions to Folgoso, Seoane and the “Miradoiro Xeolóxico“.

Now for the geological part, here’s a quick explanation on what a fold is: Layers of rock, firstly laid out one over another like lassagna, get pushed on the sides and bend together. These folds are usually vertical, as the forces that make them are horizontal (tectonic plate movements).


Above: Two cases of fold formation. Below: Types of fold. Ours is the last one on the right.

Recumbent fold, if we look it up on a dictionary translates to some stuff like “has an essentially horizontal axial plane”. This happens if the forces keep pushing the rocks, as the lassagna-like folded rocks fall on top of each other, ending up with a horizontal axial plane. On the case of the recumbent O Courel fold, the forces came from the collision of two continents: Laurasia (ancient America) and Gondwana (ancient Eurasia), which formed the supercontinent known as Pangaea:

Situation of the Earth on the late Permian (260 My.). Marked with a yellow dot is where O Courel was at the time, and on red the collision border between the two continents.

The folded rocks are now visible thanks to some river action: The water has cut through the layers of rock, like a knife would cut through a cake. The fact that all the collision stuff happened 300 million years ago helps, as the erosion has had time enough to do its job.

That’s where i got the idea for the folding symbol on the background of the site!

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I’d love to see more geological landscapes protected and explained; we are on the right track by doing it. Feel free to contact me if you want directions or suggestions for geo-tourism in Galicia, or if you want to tell me how awesome the geological landscapes where you live are. I’ll be happy to answer!

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