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The Atlantic Coastal Plain is a physiographic surface of low relief that is underlain by a mildly deformed, seaward-dipping wedge of Mesozoic and Cenozoic sediments. It constitutes a major segment of the Atlantic continental margin of the United States. In this chapter, the Mesozoic and early Cenozoic geologic history of the southern part of the Atlantic Coastal Plain, recorded within the Coastal Plain sediments, is reviewed within the broader context of the development of the entire continental margin.

The study area consists of the Atlantic Coastal Plain in North Carolina, South Carolina, eastern Georgia, and peninsular Florida (Fig. 1). The boundaries of this area are the Fall Line, the modern coastline, the Virginia/North Carolina border, and an arbitrary northwest-trending line in central Georgia that separates the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains. The Fall Line (Fig. 1) separates Precambrian and Paleozoic crystalline rocks in the Piedmont province of the Appalachian orogen to the west from the relatively undeformed younger sediments of the low-lying Coastal Plain to the east. With the major exceptions of sedimentary and basaltic igneous rocks in exposed early Mesozoic rift basins (Fig. 1), upper Cenozoic fluvial deposits on Piedmont stream terraces, and local upper Cenozoic colluvial deposits in the Piedmont, Mesozoic and Cenozoic deposits in the Atlantic margin are restricted to the Coastal Plain east of the Fall Line.

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