The composition, thickness, and geophysical log signature of the Bethany Formation vary with location and depth. In general, the Bethany Formation is a sequence of clayey and silty beds with discontinuous lenses of sand (Andres, 1986; Ramsey, 2003). The most common lithologies are silty, clayey fine sand; sandy, silty clay; clayey, sandy silt; fine to medium sand; sandy, clayey silt, and medium to coarse sand with granule and pebble layers. Thin gravel layers occur most frequently in updip areas and are rarer in downdip areas. Sands are typically quartzose. Lignite, plant remains, and mica are common, grains of glauconite are rare. In the Lewes area, Ramsey (2003) describes the Bethany Formation as consisting of gray, olive gray, bluish-gray clay to clayey silt interbedded with fine to very coarse sand. Lignitic and gravelly beds are common.
Yellowish-brown to light-gray, medium to fine sand with thin beds and laminae of medium to coarse sand and scattered pebbles (B) that grades downward into bioturbated, gray, very fine sand to silt (A). Rare beds of light-gray to red silty clay are found near the contact with the overlying Beaverdam Formation. Laminae of opaque heavy minerals are present in the upper sands. Laminae of very fine organic particles are found in the lower sand as well as laminae to thin beds of coarse sand to gravel. The burrows in the lower sand are clay lined, and in some intervals, the sediment is completely bioturbated to the extent that no sedimentary structures are preserved. Sand is primarily quartz with less than 5% feldspar and a trace to less than 1% mica (in the very fine sand to silt). Glauconite is present only in trace amounts. Fragments of lignite are common to rare in the organic laminae. Interpreted to be a late Miocene, very shallow marine to marginal marine (shoreface) deposit (McLaughlin et al., 2008). About 100 to 120 ft thick in the Georgetown Quadrangle.
The geologic history of the surficial geologic units of the Georgetown Quadrangle is primarily that of deposition of the Beaverdam Formation and its subsequent modification by erosion and deposition of younger stratigraphic units. The age of the Beaverdam Formation is uncertain due to the lack of age-definitive fossils within the unit. Stratigraphic relationships in Delaware indicate that it is no older than late Miocene and no younger than early Pleistocene.
The following table displays the correlation of hydrologic units to geologic units recognized by the Delaware Geological Survey in the Atlantic Coastal Plain.
The Bethany Beach borehole (Qj32-27) provides a nearly continuous record of the Oligocene to Pleistocene formations of eastern Sussex County, Delaware. This 1470-ft-deep, continuously cored hole penetrated Oligocene, Miocene, and Pleistocene stratigraphic units that contain important water-bearing intervals. The resulting detailed data on lithology, ages, and environments make this site an important reference section for the subsurface geology of the region.
Light gray to blue gray, fine to medium, shelly, silty, quartz sand and clayey silt. Discontinuous beds of fine sand and medium to coarse quartz sand are common. Base of the unit is marked by a coarse to granule sand that fines upwards to a medium to fine silty sand. This sand is the Milford aquifer (Ramsey, 1997; McLaughlin and Velez, 2006). In southern Kent County, can be subdivided into upper and lower units. Lower unit consists of the fining-upward sequence from the basal sand to a hard clayey silt to silty clay that ranges in color from grayish brown to bluish gray. Upper unit consists of clean to silty, fine to medium, moderately shelly sands with thin silty clay beds. Rarely found in outcrop in the upper reaches of some of the more deeply incised streams. Outcrops are too small to be shown on this map. Found in the southern half of Kent County. Up to 140 feet thick in the southernmost part of the county.
Bioturbated, dark-greenish-gray silty clay, banded light-gray, white, and red silty clay, and glauconitic, shelly, very fine sandy silt. In the Georgetown Quadrangle, the St. Marys Formation is capped by about 5 to 15 ft of bioturbated, dark-greenish-gray silty clay. A distinct burrowed horizon separates the clay from the underlying banded clay that consists of a 10- to 15-ft thick, compact, color-banded silty clay with scattered white clayey concretions. The banded clay has a sharp contact at its base with underlying glauconitic, very fine, sandy silt. The sandy silt contains shells of the gastropod Turritella. The entire thickness of the St. Marys Formation is less than 100 ft in the Georgetown Quadrangle, thinning from its thickest in the southeast corner to about 50 ft thick in the northwest corner of the map area. Interpreted to be a marine deposit of late Miocene age (McLaughlin et al., 2008).
The microflora of the Bethany formation and the lower part of the Beaverdam Formation is characterized by a Quercus-Carya assemblage, very few non-arboreal pollen, and Pterocarya and Sciadopitys as exotic constituents. This assemblage has much in common with that of the Brandywine Formation of Maryland and the Eastover Formation of Virginia which are of late Miocene or early Pliocene age. The environment of deposition of the Bethany was probably deltaic, and that of the lower Beaverdam fluviatile.
Delaware offers a few sites for fossil collectors, and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and the Pollack Farm are the best. Other locations throughout the state also offer good hunting grounds for fossil collectors. Just south of Dagsboro, where Route 113 crosses Pepper Creek, the collector can find young (less than 2 million year old) marine fossils from the Pleistocene Epoch. At the state sand and gravel pit just south of Middletown on Route 896, plant impressions from the Pleistocene may be found.