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Retired geology professor writes book on Missouri state parks

Published in October, a book titled “Geology of Missouri State Parks: An interpretive guide to the geological side of Missouri state parks” written by Max Reams and his wife Carol Reams, offers a different perspective about many of Missouri’s recreational spaces.

Reams is a retired geology professor at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois, a city south of Chicago that adjoins the city of Kankakee.

“For 50 years, I was a professor of geology at a university level, so I had a lot of information built up over that time,” he said. “Of course, I traveled pretty widely. I was always interested in the general public being involved, a lot of people don’t know much about the world they live in. I have a desire to communicate a better understanding of the way that God made the world and how it’s put together.

“When you look at something, what’s the nature behind that sort of thing? Whenever I’ve talked to people, they are fascinated with why this park is here, and why it is unique. I try to communicate those ideas to people, so they understand how things came to be, what the processes were that were active to make this location the way it is.”

The first book Reams wrote was on the geology of Illinois state parks. He did that while still teaching full-time but decided that full-time teaching and administration had too much of a workload to also write books. Since retirement, he has published eight books.

Although he is from Kansas and has spent his career in Illinois, Reams does have a connection to Missouri and is familiar with the parks in the “Parkland.”

“I received my doctorate at Washington University in St. Louis,” he said. “My dissertation was all in Missouri, basically on caves and things like that, so I became very familiar with the state traveling around working on the research. My wife is from Missouri. It was a logical thing to do.

“We hit most of all the parks and a number of historical sites that are geologically interesting. We stayed away from those that are purely historical in human cultural types, that’s another world, and there are books written on those things. We stayed away from what people have written about already and focus on the thing we know best and people probably know least about because, basically, they are not exposed to these sorts of things.

“Most people have never had a course in geology. Most people want to know where the picnic tables and, where to camp, and where the trails are. Those things are readily available. You can go to websites and find that stuff. They tell you a little bit about what’s going on but don’t give you a glimpse that a geologist can give you about how things came to be.”

As most area residents know, there are a huge amount of parks in this area alone. Writing about the characteristics of most of the parks in Missouri and keeping a book reasonable in size and breadth of information has to be a daunting task.

“Of course, when you have that many parks, you can’t say so much about any one park time-wise,” Reams said. “We wanted to have photography as a background for it too, that’s why we traveled to most of the parks and did photography and put it in the book.

“We did it in black and white, that was to cut the cost— color is very expensive — and we did it so that the average person can take this book and toss it in their backpack or in their car so, when they go to a park, they can take it out, and in a few minutes they have a snapshot of what that park is about, and it’s nature so they can appreciate what is there other than it’s a pretty park with some trails.

We also wanted to make sure it was technically accurate. The first part of the book is an outline of geology related to Missouri. When they look at the individual parks and have questions about things, they can refer back to the front of the book or go to the glossary for the terminology.”

The book required an immense amount of research. Reams contacted a friend of his named Tom Thompson, whom he says probably knows more about Missouri geology than anybody on Earth, and asked him to read the book.

“He wrote the blurb on the back cover,” Reams said. “That was one of my seals of authenticity.”

Reams has written other books in the genres of science, fiction and counseling. “The Geology of Illinois Parks,” “Waterfalls in Illinois,” and “Ice Age Giant Mammals of the Midwest” are science books. “Oil on My Hands,” “My Mine or Yours,” and “Diamonds: Friend or Foe?” are novels about a geologist who is also a private investigator. “Before Your Journey” and “On The Journey” are premarital counseling books. His books can be purchased on

Ream’s dissertation, “Cave Sediments and the Geomorphic History of the Ozarks,” has been reprinted and can be purchased at the Missouri Speleological Survey website at

Authors Max and Carol Reams pose for a photo at Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park.

Authors Max and Carol Reams pose for a photo at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park.

Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at

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