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The Pennsylvanian section on the southern Cumberland Plateau in the Sewanee and Tracy City area is composed of the Gizzard Group (Raccoon Mountain Formation, Warren Point Sandstone, and Signal Point Shale) and the lower portion of the Crab Orchard Mountains Group (Sewanee Conglomerate and Whitwell Shale). The hydrogeologic setting of the area controlled the founding and development of the town of Sewanee and University of the South. Water use initially relied upon a system of perennial springs, soil seeps, shallow wells, and a failed method of dam construction. Later, reservoirs with earthen dams across first-order drainages set the stage for growth of the community.

Deformation associated with the Alleghanian Cumberland overthrust on the University Domain (more than 10,000 acres owned by the university) is subtle and confined to Bon Air coals in the Raccoon Mountain Formation, but a well-developed system of thrusts and folds in nearby Fiery Gizzard documents a consistent northwest tectonic transport direction. Deformation ranges from centimeter scale in Raccoon Mountain Formation mudstones to tens of meters of Warren Point Sandstone cut by northeast-striking thrusts. Deformation in Fiery Gizzard is locally related to two décollement surfaces above (intensely sheared Raccoon Mountain sandstone) and below (sheared Raccoon Mountain mudstones and coals) Sycamore Falls. Fourteen kilometers to the southeast, these overthrust structures are thought to connect to the Sequatchie thrust.

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