William "Sandy" Schenck lead a field trip through the Delaware Piedmont for the A.I. duPont High School Earth Science Class. The trip made use of the Wilmington-Western Railroad and everyone rode the railroad's "Doodle Bug." Activities included up close examinations of rock and mineral features and even "Panning for Garnets" at Brandywine Springs Park.
Found in the creek bed and flood plain, the large boulders in Shellpot Creek are excellent examples of Bringhurst Gabbro. The gabbro is very coarse-grained with crystals up to 2" long; however, variations in the grain size exist over a scale of a few inches. While observing this rock closely, one can occasionally find grains of orthopyroxene (possibly bronzite) up to 4" long. Some of the boulders have grains of olivine surrounded by double coronas of orthopyroxene, spinel, and hornblende.
The Delaware Piedmont is but a small part of the Appalachian Mountain system that extends from Georgia to Newfoundland. This mountain system is the result of tectonic activity that took place during the Paleozoic era, between 543 and 245 million years ago. Since that time, the mountains have been continuously eroding, and their deep roots slowly rising in compensation as the overlying rocks are removed. It is surprising to find that although the Delaware Piedmont has passed through the whole series of tectonic events that formed the Appalachians, the mineralogy and structures preserved in Delaware were formed by the early event that occurred between 470 and 440 million years ago, called the Taconic orogeny.
Geochemical data from Ordovician and Silurian mafic rocks in the Wilmington Complex in Delaware, the James Run Formation in Cecil County, Maryland, and the Wissahickon Formation in Delaware and Pennsylvania were collected in conjunction with preparation of a new geologic map of the Delaware-Pennsylvania Piedmont.
This report accompanies a new map that revises the original bedrock geologic maps of the Delaware Piedmont compiled by Woodruff and Thompson and published by the Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) in 1972 and 1975. Combined detailed mapping, petrography, geochemistry, and U-Pb geochronology have allowed us to redefine two rock units and formally recognize eleven new units. A section of the Pennsylvania Piedmont is included on the new map to show the entire extent of the Mill Creek Nappe and the Arden Plutonic Supersuite.
The Wilmington blue rock, Delaware's most famous rock, underlies both the city of Wilmington and the rolling upland north and east of the city. It is best exposed along the banks of the Brandywine Creek from south of Rockland to the Market Street Bridge. Along this section the Brandywine has carved a deep gorge in the blue rock. The water fall along this four mile gorge is approximately 120', and in the 17th and 18th centuries provided water power for one of the greatest industrial developments in the American colonies. The field trip stops described below are chosen as good examples of blue rock along the Brandywine Creek, and to illustrate how the geology has influenced the development of this area. It is not necessary to visit every stop to become familiar with the blue rocks, you may choose to visit only a few.
The Piedmont occurs in the hilly northernmost part of the state and is composed of crystalline metamorphic and igneous rocks. This chart summarizes the age and distribution of the geologic units that are recognized in the Delaware Piedmont by the Delaware Geological Survey.
All the rock units in Delaware’s Piedmont are highly deformed. Deformational features, such as folds, faults, and/or joints, are present in almost every outcrop.
GeoAdventures are designed to allow the reader to learn about a particular geologic point of interest in Delaware’s Piedmont province and then take a short field trip to that area. Want to know more about the Wilmington blue rock or Brandywine blue granite? Take the Wilmington Blue Rock GeoAdventure and go see just what the blue rock looks like.