Within the Himalayan Foreland Basin, the axial Yamuna River with Himalayan headwaters lies along the northern margin of the Indian Craton, giving the impression that cratonic rivers have contributed little to the basin compared with Himalayan drainages. However, the Betwa, Chambal, and other rivers, which drain northward into the Yamuna, are vigorous monsoonal rivers with large catchments. Stratigraphic and petrographic evidence shows that sediment derived largely from these rivers extends north of the axial Yamuna River. Red feldspathic sand and gravel underlie much of the southern foreland basin at shallow depth (>25 m), where its topmost strata are dated at ca. 119 ka ago, and extend at deeper levels (>500 m) to about one-third of the distance across the foreland basin. Petrographic analysis confirms a match with modern Betwa River sands, which derive their feldspar from granitic gneisses of the Bundelkhand Complex.
Along the Yamuna Valley the red alluvium is overlain by gray alluvium dated at 82–35 ka ago, which also yields a cratonic signature, with large amounts of smectite derived from the Deccan Traps. Cratonic contributions are evident in alluvium as young as 9 ka ago in a section 25 km north of the Yamuna. This gray cratonic sediment was probably deposited in part by the Chambal River, which transports high-grade metamorphic minerals from the Banded Gneiss Complex of the Aravalli belt. Cratonic sediment appears to interfinger with Himalayan detritus farther north below the Ganga-Yamuna Interfluve.
With its headwaters in the tectonically unstable Indus-Ganga watershed area, the Yamuna River may have occupied its present course late in the Quaternary, and if so, cratonic rivers may have provided the basin's axial drainage for prolonged periods. The penetration of Himalayan sediment to the distal foreland basin may reflect avulsion of orogenic rivers along the craton margin, in addition to dynamic transverse drainage systems from the Himalaya that pushed the axial drainage to the basin's feather edge. The wide spread of cratonic sediment would have been enhanced by slow subsidence in the distal foreland basin and focusing of rivers into a basin reentrant.