A number of bentonitic clay deposits from the Ordu area (NE Turkey) have been investigated by optical and electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction and chemical analysis. The clays are the alteration products of Late Cretaceous trachytic and trachyandesitic pyroclastic rocks. They contain volcanogenic sanidine, plagioclase, biotite and pumice, along with the diagenetic minerals opal-CT, cristobalite and rare calcite and zeolite (clinoptilolite). Ca-smectite (montmorillonite) is the dominant clay mineral. The rare earth element patterns of all the bentonitic clays are generally similar, although there are variations in the Eu anomaly indicating formation from different types of pyroclastic rocks. Oxygen and hydrogen stable isotope values suggest that the smectite was formed at 20–40°C in pore water of mixed meteoric and marine origin during argillization. These features, together with mass-balance calculations, indicate the enhanced MgO and Sr content of the smectite resulted from formation at shallow burial depths within a dominantly marine environment.