RI76 Stratigraphy, Correlation, and Depositional Environments of the Middle to Late Pleistocene Interglacial Deposits of Southern Delaware
Rising and highstands of sea level during the middle to late Pleistocene deposited swamp to nearshore sediments along the margins of an ancestral Delaware Bay, Atlantic coastline, and tributaries to an ancestral Chesapeake Bay. These deposits are divided into three lithostratigraphic groups: the Delaware Bay Group, the Assawoman Bay Group (named herein), and the Nanticoke River Group (named herein). The Delaware Bay Group, mapped along the margins of Delaware Bay, is subdivided into the Lynch Heights Formation and the Scotts Corners Formation. The Assawoman Bay Group, recognized inland of Delaware’s Atlantic Coast, is subdivided into the Omar Formation, the Ironshire Formation, and the Sinepuxent Formation. The Nanticoke River Group, found along the margins of the Nanticoke River and its tributaries, is subdivided into the Turtle Branch Formation (named herein) and the Kent Island Formation.
Delaware Bay Group deposits consist of bay-margin coarse sand and gravel that fine upward to silt and silty sand. Beds of organic-rich mud were deposited in tidal marshes. Near the present Atlantic Coast, the Delaware Bay Group includes organic-rich muds and shelly muds deposited in lagoonal environments.
Assawoman Bay Group deposits range from very fine, silty sands to silty clays with shells deposited in back-barrier lagoons, to fine to coarse, well-sorted sands deposited in barriers and spits.
Nanticoke River Group deposits consist of coarse sand and gravel that fine upward to silty clays. Oyster shells are found associated with the clays in the Turtle Branch Formation. Organic-rich clayey silts were deposited in swamps and estuaries. Well-sorted fine sands to gravelly sands were deposited on beaches and tidal flats on the flanks of the ancestral Nanticoke River and its tributaries.
The Lynch Heights, Omar, and Turtle Branch Formations are age-equivalent units associated with highstands of sea level,which occurred at approximately 400,000 and 325,000 yrs B.P. (MIS 11 and 9, respectively). The Scotts Corners, Ironshire, Sinepuxent, and Kent Island Formations are age-equivalent units associated with highstands of sea level, which occurred between 120,000 and 80,000 yrs B.P. (MIS 5e and 5a, respectively).
The surficial Pliocene and Quaternary sedimentary deposits of the Atlantic Coastal Plain of Delaware comprise several formal and informal stratigraphic units. Their ages and the paleoenvironments they represent are interpreted on the basis of palynological and lithologic data and, to a lesser degree, on geomorphology.
The Calvert Formation, deposited in a shallow sea during the late Oligocene and early to middle Miocene (15-27 million years ago), contains a very rich fossil microflora, both in terms of number of specimens and number of species. Most abundant are pollen of oak, pine, and hickory, but exotic taxa (those that no longer occur in Delaware) are present in all samples of this formation. They include pollen of Engelhardia type, Manilkara, Planera (water elm), Alangium(?), and palms. All of these exotics are genera of subtropical or tropical regions, some occurring now in Central America, Florida, and east Asia. The climate during the deposition of the Calvert Formation was probably subtropical and moist.