The complex geologic history of the surficial units of the Harbeson Quadrangle is one of deposition of the Beaverdam Formation and its subsequent modification by erosion and deposition related to sea-level fluctuations during the Pleistocene. The geology is further complicated by periglacial activity that produced dune deposits and Carolina Bays scattered throughout the map area.
Atlantic Coastal Plain
In support of the University of Delaware's sustainability efforts, the Delaware Geological Survey is offering its First State Geology newsletter as an online document.
First State Geology features news about Delaware geology and water resources, recent DGS publications, and DGS staff activities.
The Nanticoke River Group consists of the Turtle Branch and Kent Island Formations. The Nanticoke River Group consists of heterogeneous units of interbedded fine to coarse sand, clayey silt, sandy silt, and silty clay. Where the units are muddy, downstream of Seaford, the sequence consists of a lower fluvial to estuarine swamp to tidal stream deposits (coarse sand to gravelly sand with scattered organic-rich muddy beds) overlain by estuarine clayey silts and silty clays that contain rare to common Crassostrea (oyster) bioherms. The silts and clays are overlain by sands with clay laminae, to fine to coarse well-sorted, clean sand that are estuarne beach and eolian in origin. Upstream, the mud beds are rarer and restricted to the west side of streams and consist of organic rich clayey silt. Most of the stratigraphic section is dominated by clean, well-sorted sands.
The Assawoman Bay Group consists of the well-sorted sands, silts, and clays of the Omar, Ironshire, and Sinepuxent Formations found adjacent to and inland of the Atlantic Coast of Delaware and Maryland. These deposits in Delaware and Maryland were named from oldest to youngest: the Omar Formation (Jordan, 1962, 1964), the Ironshire Formation (Owens and Denny, 1979a), and the Sinepuxent Formation (Owens and Denny, 1979a).
It is a clayey, calcareous, shelly, glauconitic (10-20 percent) silt. Its colors range from greenish-gray and gray-green to brownish-gray and light gray. It is rich in calcareous and siliceous microfossils. The matrix mineralogy shows a high calcite component, except in the lower part of the formation which is within a calcite dissolution interval. In the lower half of the formation quartz is predominant.
Owens and Denny (1979) named the Kent Island Formation for deposits bordering the Chesapeake Bay found underneath lowlands that ranged in elevation from 0 to 25 feet in elevation but most of the land surface area is less than 10 feet in elevation. These lowlands are bordered by a scarp with at toe at approximately 25 feet. In its type area, the Kent Island Formation was described as consisting of thick beds of loose, light colored, cross-stratified sand overlying dark-colored massive to thinly laminated clay-silt. Pebbles as much as 10 cm (4 in.) in diameter occur in thin beds with the sand or as scattered clasts in both the sand and clay-silt. Locally, large tree stumps in growth position are encased in the clay-silt. Maximum thickness of the Kent Island was about 12 m (40 feet).
The Omar Formation was originally described (Jordan, 1962) as consisting of interbedded, gray to dark gray, quartz sands and silts with bedding ranging from a few inches to more than 10 feet thick. Thin laminae of clay are found within the fine, well-sorted sands. Silt mixed with sand generally contains some plant matter and where dark in color could be considered organic. Sands contain wood fragments, some of which are lignitic.
The Ironshire Formation was described by Owens and Denny (1979) as consisting of a lower loose, pale-yellow to white, well-sorted, medium sand characterized by long, low-angle inclined beds with laminae of black minerals. The upper portion of the units was described as consisting of light-colored, trough cross-stratified, well-sorted sand with pebbles and a few Callianassa borings. They described the Ironshire Formation near Rehoboth in a stratigraphic section which is now considered to be a part of the Lynch Heights Formation.
Owens and Denny (1979) described the Sinepuxent Formation in Maryland as dark, poorly sorted, silty fine to medium sand with the lower part of the unit being fine grained with thin beds of black clay. The Sinepuxent Formation is described as being lithically distinct from the Omar and Ironshire Formations due to the presence gray, laminated, silty very fine to fine, quartzose, micaceous, sand to sandy silt. The base of the unit is typically a bluishgray to dark-gray clayey silt to silty clay. There are a few shelly zones within the Sinepuxent Formation in the vicinity of Bethany Beach (McDonald, 1981; McLaughlin et al., 2008). The Sinepuxent Formation is up to 40 feet thick.