Exploration for sand resources for beach nourishment has led to an increase in the amount of geologic data available from areas offshore Delaware's Atlantic Coast. These data are in the form of cores, core logs, and seismic reflection profiles. In order to provide a geologic context for these offshore data, this cross section has been constructed from well and borehole data along Delaware's Atlantic coastline from Cape Henlopen to Fenwick Island. Placing the offshore data in geologic context is important for developing stratigraphic and geographic models for predicting the location of stratigraphic units found offshore that may yield sand suitable for beach nourishment. The units recognized onshore likely extend offshore to where they are truncated by younger units or by the present seafloor.
Coastlines are not static features. They are shaped by the daily effects of wind, current, and wave activity. Over time, a coastline may move landward due to relative sea-level rise or low sediment supply, or seaward due to relative sea-level fall or an overabundance of sediment. Perhaps the most striking example of shoreline movement in Delaware is at Cape Henlopen which has grown northward approximately one mile in the last 160 years. Maps and aerial photographs show these changes.
The surficial geology of the Lewes and Cape Henlopen quadrangles reflects the geologic history of the Delaware Bay estuary and successive high and low stands of sea levels during the Quaternary. The subsurface Beaverdam Formation was deposited as part of a fluvial-estuarine system during the Pliocene, the sediments of which now form the core of the Delmarva Peninsula. Following a period of glacial outwash during the early Pleistocene represented by the Columbia Formation found to the northwest of the map area (Ramsey, 1997), the Delaware River and Estuary developed their current positions. The Lynch Heights and Scotts Corners Formations (Ramsey, 1993, 1997, 2001) represent shoreline and estuarine deposits associated with high stands of sea level during the middle to late Pleistocene on the margins of the Delaware Estuary. In the map area, the Lynch Heights Formation includes relict spit and dune deposits at the ancestral intersection of the Atlantic Coast and Delaware Bay systems, similar in geomorphic position to the modern Cape Henlopen.
These vector and raster data sets contain the rock unit polygons for the surficial geology in ESRI shapefile and TIF format for the Delaware Coastal Plain covered by DGS Geologic Map No. 12 (Lewes-Cape Henlopen area).