This long-winded geologic table is a tangible result of the On-The-Rocks Field Trip Program conducted by Drs. John E. Sanders and Charles Merguerian between 1988 and 1998.  In pure Stenoan and Huttonian delight, we here present the seven-layer cake model that has proved so effective in simplifying the complex geology of the region.  Under continual scrutiny and improvement, we provide this updated web-based information as a public service to all students and educators of geology. We fully encourage any comments, additions, or corrections that would lead to improvements. References cited can be found by following this link.


A blanket of irregular thickness [up to 50 m or more] overlying and more or less covering all older bedrock units. Includes four or five tills of several ages each of which was deposited by a continental glacier that flowed across the region from one of two contrasting directions: (1) from N10° E to S10° W (direction from Labrador center and down the Hudson Valley), or (2) from N20° W to S20° E (direction from Keewatin center in Hudson's Bay region of Canada and across the Hudson Valley). The inferred relationship of the five tills is as follows from youngest [I] to oldest [V]. [I] - Yellow-brown to gray till from NNE to SSW, [II] - red-brown till from NW to SE, [III] - red-brown till from NW to SE, and [IV] - yellow-brown to gray till from NNE to SSW, and [V] - red-brown till from NW to SE containing decayed stones (Sanders and Merguerian, 1991a,b, 1992, 1994a, b; 1998; Sanders, Merguerian, and Mills, 1993; Sanders and others, 1997; Merguerian and Sanders, 1996). [Summary Table]. Quaternary sediments consist chiefly of till and outwash. On Long Island, outwash (sand and gravel) and glacial lake sediment predominates and till is minor and local. By contrast, on Staten Island, tills and interstratified lake sediments predominate and sandy outwash appears only locally, near Great Kills beach.

[Pliocene episode of extensive and rapid epeirogenic uplift of New England and deep erosion of major river valleys, including the excavation of the prominent inner lowland alongside the coastal-plain cuesta; a part of the modern landscape in New Jersey, but submerged in part to form Long Island Sound].

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LAYER VI - COASTAL-PLAIN STRATA (L. Cretaceous to U. Miocene; products of Passive Continental Margin II - Atlantic).

Marine- and nonmarine sands and clays, present beneath the Quaternary sediments on Long Island (but exposed locally in NW Long Island and on SW Staten Island) and forming a wide outcrop belt in NE New Jersey. These strata underlie the submerged continental terrace. The basal unit (L. Cretaceous from Maryland southward, but U. Cretaceous in vicinity of New York City) overlaps deformed- and eroded Newark strata and older formations. Also includes thick (2000 m) L. Cretaceous sands and shales filling the offshore Baltimore Canyon Trough. At the top are Miocene marine- and coastal units that are coarser than lower strata and in many localities SW of New Jersey, overstep farther inland than older coastal-plain strata. Capping unit is a thin (<50 m) sheet of yellow gravel (U. Miocene or L. Pliocene?) that was prograded as SE-directed fans from the Appalachians pushed back the sea. Eroded Newark debris is present in L. Cretaceous sands, but in U. Cretaceous through Miocene units, Newark-age redbed debris is conspicuously absent. This relationship is considered to be proof that the coastal-plain formations previously buried the Newark basins so that no Newark-age debris was available until after the Pliocene period of great regional uplift and erosion. The presence of resistant heavy minerals derived from the Proterozoic highlands part of the Appalachians within all coastal-plain sands indicates that the coastal-plain strata did not cover the central highlands of the Appalachians.

[Mid-Jurassic to Late Jurassic episode of regional arching of Newark basin-filling strata and end of sediment accumulation in Newark basin; multiple episodes of deformation including oroclinal "bending" of entire Appalachian chain in NE Pennsylvania (Carey, 1955), and one or more episodes of intrusion of mafic igneous rocks, of folding, of normal faulting, and of strike-slip faulting (Merguerian and Sanders, 1994b). Great uplift and erosion, ending with formation of Fall-Zone planation surface].

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LAYER V - NEWARK BASIN-FILLING STRATA (Upper Triassic and Lower Jurassic)

Newark-age strata unconformably overlie folded- and metamorphosed Paleozoic strata of Layer II and some of the Proterozoic formations of Layer I; are in fault contact with other Proterozoic formations of the Highlands complex. Cobbles and boulders in basin-marginal rudites near Ramapo Fault include mostly rocks from Layers III, IIB, and IIA(W), which formerly blanketed the Proterozoic now at the surface on the much-elevated Ramapo Mountains block. The thick (possibly 8 or 9 km) strata filling the Newark basin are nonmarine.

In addition to the basin-marginal rudites, the sediments include fluvial- and varied deposits of large lakes whose levels shifted cyclically in response to climate cycles evidently related to astronomic forcing. A notable lake deposit includes the Lockatong Formation, with its analcime-rich black argillites, which attains a maximum thickness of about 450 m in the Delaware River valley area. Interbedded with the Jurassic part of the Newark strata are three extrusive complexes, each 100 to 300 m thick, whose resistant tilted edges now underlie the curvilinear ridges of the Watchung Mountains in north-central New Jersey. Boulders of vesicular basalt in basin-marginal rudites prove that locally, the lava flows extended northwestward across one or more of the basin-marginal faults and onto a block that was later elevated and eroded. The thick (ca. 300 m) Palisades intrusive sheet is concordant in its central parts, where it intrudes the Lockatong at a level about 400 m above the base of the Newark strata. To the NE and SW, however, the sheet is discordant and cuts higher strata (Merguerian and Sanders, 1995a). Contact relationships and the discovery of clastic dikes at the base of the Palisades in Fort Lee, New Jersey, suggest that the mafic magma responsible for the Palisades was originally intruded at relatively shallow depths (roughly 3 to 4 km) according to Merguerian and Sanders (1995b).

Xenoliths and screens of both Stockton Arkose and Lockatong Argillite are present near the base of the sill. Locally, marginal zones of some xenoliths were melted to form granitic rocks (examples: the trondhjemite formed from the Lockatong Argillite at the Graniteville quarry, Staten Island, described by Benimoff and Sclar, 1984; and a "re-composed" augite granite associated with pieces of Stockton Arkose at Weehawken and Jersey City, described by J. V. Lewis, 1908, p. 135-137).

[Appalachian terminal orogeny; large-scale overthrusts of strata over strata (as in the bedding thrusts of the "Little Mountains east of the Catskills" and in the strata underlying the NW side of the Appalachian Great Valley), of basement over strata (in the outliers NW of the Hudson Highlands, and possibly also in many parts of the Highlands themselves), and presumably also of basement over basement (localities not yet identified). High-grade metamorphism of Coal Measures and intrusion of granites in Rhode Island dated at 270 Ma. Extensive uplift and erosion, ending with the formation of the pre-Newark peneplain].

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Mostly nonmarine coarse strata, about 6 km thick, including thick coals altered to anthracite grade, now preserved only in tight synclines in the Anthracite district, near Scranton, NE Pennsylvania; inferred to have formerly extended NE far enough to have buried the Catskills and vicinity in eastern New York State (Friedman and Sanders, 1982, 1983).

[Acadian orogeny; great thermal activity and folding, including metamorphism on a regional scale, ductile deformation, and intrusion of granites; dated at ~360 Ma].

LAYER III - MOSTLY MARINE STRATA OF APPALACHIAN BASIN AND CATSKILLS (Carbonates and terrigenous strata of Devonian and Silurian age)


(Western Facies) (Eastern Facies)

Catskill Plateau, Delaware SE of Hudson-Great Valley

Valley monocline, and "Little lowland in Schunnemunk-

Mountains" NW of Hudson-Great Bellvale graben.

Valley lowland.

Kaaterskill redbeds and cgls. Schunnemunk Cgl.

Ashokan Flags (large cross strata) Bellvale Fm., upper unit

Mount Marion Fm. (graded layers, Bellvale Fm., lower unit

marine) (graded layers, marine)

Bakoven Black Shale Cornwall Black Shale

Onondaga Limestone

Schoharie buff siltstone Pine Hill Formation

Esopus Formation Esopus Formation

Glenerie Chert

Connelly Conglomerate Connelly Conglomerate

Central Valley Sandstone

Carbonates of Helderberg Group Carbonates of Helderberg Group

Manlius Limestone

Rondout Formation Rondout Formation

Decker Formation

Binnewater Sandstone Poxono Island Formation

High Falls Shale Longwood Red Shale

Shawangunk Formation Green Pond Conglomerate


[Taconic orogeny; 480 Ma deep-seated folding, dynamothermal metamorphism and mafic- to ultramafic (alkalic) igneous intrusive activity (dated in the range of 470 to 430 Ma) across suture zone (Cameron's Line-St. Nicholas thrust zones). Underthrusting of shallow-water western carbonates of Sauk Sequence below supracrustal deep-water eastern Taconic strata and imbrication of former Sauk-Tippecanoe margin. Long-distance transport of strata over strata has been demonstrated; less certain locally is proof of basement thrust over strata and of basement shifted over basement. In Newfoundland, a full ophiolite sequence, 10 km thick, has been thrust over shelf-type sedimentary strata].

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LAYER II - CAMBRO-ORDOVICIAN CONTINENTAL-MARGIN COVER (Products of Passive Continental Margin I - Iapetus). Subdivided into two sub layers, IIB and IIA. Layer IIA is further subdivided into western- and eastern facies.

LAYER IIB - TIPPECANOE SEQUENCE - Middle Ordovician flysch with basal limestone (Balmville, Jacksonburg limestones).

Not metamorphosed / Metamorphosed

Martinsburg Fm. / Manhattan Schist (Om - lower unit).

Normanskill Fm. / Annsville Phyllite

Subaerial exposure; karst features form on Sauk (Layer IIA[W]) platform.

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Western shallow-water Eastern deep-water zone

platform (L. Cambrian- (L. Cambrian-M. Ordovician)

M. Ordovician)

Copake Limestone Stockbridge

Rochdale Limestone or Inwood Marbles

Halcyon Lake Fm.

Briarcliff Dolostone (C-Oh) Hartland Fm.

Pine Plains Fm. (C-Om) Manhattan Fm.

Stissing Dolostone (in part).

Poughquag Quartzite

Lowerre Quartzite [Base not known]

[Pre-Iapetus Rifting Event; extensional tectonics, volcanism, rift-facies sedimentation, and plutonic igneous activity precedes development of Iapetus [Layer II = passive continental margin I] ocean basin. Late Proterozoic (Z) extensional interval yields protoliths of Pound Ridge Gneiss, Yonkers granitoid gneisses, and the Ned Mountain Formation (of Brock, 1989, 1993). Followed by a period of uplift and erosion. In New Jersey, metamorphosed rift facies rocks are mapped as the Chestnut Hill Formation of A. A. Drake, Jr. (1984)].

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Many individual lithologic units including Proterozoic Y ortho- and paragneiss, granitoid rocks, metavolcanic- and metasedimentary rocks identified, but only a few attempts have been made to decipher the stratigraphic relationships; hence, the three-dimensional structural relationships remain obscure.

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[Grenville orogeny; deformation, metamorphism, and plutonism dated about 1,100 Ma. After the orogeny, an extensive period of uplift and erosion begins. Grenville-aged (Proterozoic Y) basement rocks include the Fordham Gneiss of Westchester County, the Bronx, and the subsurface of western Long Island (Queens and Brooklyn Sections, NYC Water Tunnel #3), the Hudson Highland-Reading Prong terrane, the Franklin Marble Belt and associated rocks, and the New Milford, Housatonic, Berkshire, and Green Mountain Massifs.]

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In New Jersey and Pennsylvania rocks older than the Franklin Marble Belt and associated rocks include the Losee Metamorphic Suite. Unconformably beneath the Losee, in Pennsylvania, Proterozoic X rocks of the Hexenkopf Complex crop out.

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