The early Mesozoic Birdsboro basin (new name) was a single, elongate depositional trough in the present Mid-Atlantic area of the eastern United States, extending northeastward from central Virginia across Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey into southern New York. What now remains after erosion comprises the Barboursville, Culpeper, Gettysburg, and Newark remnants.
Some 7± km of late Triassic and early Jurassic continental sediments of varying provenances entered and spread across in the Birdsboro basin in several depositional environments. The five resulting sedimentary lithosomes include feldspathic sandstone, quartzose sandstone, red silty mudstone, gray shale, and fanglomerate. The extensive interbedding, intertonguing, and lateral gradation among these lithosomes suggest that they were contemporary and closely interrelated.
The feldspathic sandstone lithosome contains sediment with a southeastern provenance that accumulated in a bajada environment extending the length of the southeastern side of the basin. Sediment in the quartzose sandstone lithosome had a northwestern provenance—the coarse-grained fraction formed regional alluvial fans at the mouths of four major input centers. The finer-grained fraction was deposited in the distal reaches of these fans and in the playa environments in the interfan areas; this fraction formed the red silty mudstone lithosome. Gray/black shales and argillites of the gray shale lithosome accumulated in lacustrine environments in the interfan areas. The fanglomerate lithosome comprises numerous small, lobate deposits of poorly sorted sediment along both basin margins. The location and time of activity of the northwest input centers largely determined the distribution and areal extent of the various depositional environments and consequent lithosomes along the length and across the width of the basin.
The Birdsboro basin was deformed (tilted, faulted, and folded) sometime after the deposition of the youngest preserved rocks (early Sinemurian). The deformation varied along the length of the basin, producing differences in the amount of tilting, structural elevation, and subsequent erosion. The present erosional remnants create the illusion of four originally separate depositional basins.