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RI78 Subsurface Geology of the Area Between Wrangle Hill and Delaware City, Delaware

RI78 Subsurface Geology of the Area Between Wrangle Hill and Delaware City, Delaware

The geology and hydrology of the area between Wrangle Hill and Delaware City, Delaware, have been the focus of numerous studies since the 1950s because of the importance of the local groundwater supply and the potential environmental impact of industrial activity. In this report, 490 boreholes from six decades of drilling provide dense coverage, allowing detailed characterization of the subsurface geologic framework that controls groundwater occurrence and flow.

The region contains a lower section of tabular Cretaceous strata (Potomac, Merchantville, Englishtown, Marshalltown,and Mount Laurel Formations in ascending order) and a more stratigraphically complex upper section of Pleistocene-to-modern units (Columbia, Lynch Heights, and Scotts Corners Formations, latest Pleistocene and Holocene surficial sediments and estuarine deposits). The lowermost Potomac Formation is a mosaic of alluvial facies and includes fluvial channel sands that function as confined aquifer beds; however, the distribution of aquifer-quality sand within the formation is extremely heterogeneous. The Merchantville Formation serves as the most significant confining layer. The Columbia Formation is predominantly sand and functions as an unconfined aquifer over much of the study area.

To delineate the distribution and character of the subsurface formations, densely spaced structural-stratigraphic cross sections were constructed and structural contour maps were created for the top of the Potomac Formation and base of the Columbia Formation. The Cretaceous formations form a series of relatively parallel strata that dip gently (0.4 degrees) to the southeast. These formations are progressively truncated to the north by more flatly dipping Quaternary sediments, except in a narrow north-south oriented belt on the east side of the study area where the deeply incised Reybold paleochannel eroded into the Potomac Formation.

The Reybold paleochannel is one of the most significant geological features in the study area. It is a relatively narrow sandfilled trough defined by deep incision at the base of the Columbia Formation. It reaches depths of more than 110 ft below sea level with a width as narrow as 1,500 ft. It is interpreted to be the result of scour by the sudden release of powerful floodwaters from the north associated with one or more Pleistocene deglaciations. Where the Reybold paleochannel cuts through the Merchantville confining layer, a potential pathway exists for hydrological communication between Columbia and Potomac aquifer sands.

East of the paleochannel, multiple cut-and-fill units within the Pleistocene to Holocene section create a complex geologic framework. The Lynch Heights and Scotts Corners Formations were deposited along the paleo-Delaware River in the late Pleistocene and are commonly eroded into the older Pleistocene Columbia Formation. They are associated with scarps and terraces that represent several generations of sea-level-driven Pleistocene cut-and-fill. They, in turn, have been locally eroded and covered by Holocene marsh and swamp deposits. The Lynch Heights and Scotts Corners Formations include sands that are unconfined aquifers but complicated geometries and short-distance facies changes make their configuration more complex than that of the Columbia Formation.

Dinosaurs in Delaware?

Only fragmentary remains of dinosaurs have been found in Delaware. All of these have come from the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, mainly from the spoil piles created by the dredging of the Canal. Various nature groups in Delaware lead trips to the Canal for collecting. Most of the fossils found are those of marine invertebrates (primarily bivalves and gastropods with some remains of sponges, ammonites, and belemnites).

B9 Stratigraphy of the Sedimentary Rocks of Delaware

B9 Stratigraphy of the Sedimentary Rocks of Delaware

The stratigraphy of the Coastal Plain of Delaware is discussed with emphasis placed upon an appraisal of the stratigraphic nomenclature. A revised stratigraphic column for Delaware is proposed. Rock stratigraphic units, based mainly on data from certain key wells, are described and the published names which have been or which might conceivably be applied to those units are reviewed. In each case a name is chosen and the reasons for the choice are stated. The relationships between the column established for Delaware and the recognized columns for adjacent states are considered. The rock units of the Coastal Plain of New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland form an interrelated mass. However, profound facies changes do occur, particularly in the dip direction, but also along the strike. Thus, attempts to extend units established in the outcrop belt almost indefinitely into the subsurface have been unsatisfactory.

Merchantville Formation


Light- to dark-gray, very micaceous, glauconitic, very silty fine- to very fine-grained sand to fine sandy silt. Ranges from 20 to 120 ft in thickness. Marine in origin.

B20 Stratigraphy of the Post-Potomac Cretaceous-Tertiary Rocks of Central Delaware

B20 Stratigraphy of the Post-Potomac Cretaceous-Tertiary Rocks of Central Delaware

This Bulletin presents the subsurface stratigraphy of the post-Potomac Cretaceous and Tertiary rocks of the Atlantic Coastal Plain of central Delaware, between the Chesapeake and Delaware (C & D) Canal and Dover. Geophysical log correlations supported by biostratigraphic and lithologic data from boreholes in Delaware and nearby New Jersey provide the basis for the report. The stratigraphic framework presented here is important for identifying subsurface stratigraphic units penetrated by the numerous boreholes in this part of Delaware, particularly those rock units that serve as aquifers, because such knowledge allows for better prediction at ground-water movement and availability. Also, accurate stratigraphy is a prerequisite for interpreting the geologic history of the rocks and for the construction of maps that depict the structure and thickness of each unit.

Coastal Plain Rock Units (Stratigraphic Chart)

The geology of Delaware includes parts of two geologic provinces: the Appalachian Piedmont Province and the Atlantic Coastal Plain Province. The Piedmont occurs in the hilly northernmost part of the state and is composed of crystalline metamorphic and igneous rocks. This chart summarizes the age and distribution of the geologic units that are recognized in the state by the Delaware Geological Survey.

GM13 Geologic Map of New Castle County, Delaware

GM13 Geologic Map of New Castle County, Delaware

This map shows the surficial geology of New Castle County, Delaware at a scale of 1:100,000. Maps at this scale are useful for viewing the general geologic framework on a county-wide basis, determining the geology of watersheds, and recognizing the relationship of geology to regional or county-wide environmental or land-use issues. This map, when combined with the subsurface geologic information, provides a basis for locating water supplies, mapping ground-water recharge areas, and protecting ground and surface water. Geologic maps are also used to identify geologic hazards, such as sinkholes and flood-prone areas, to identify sand and gravel resources, and for supporting state, county, and local land-use and planning decisions.

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