Abstract

Late Cretaceous Tuscaloosa Formation occurs as discontinuous remnants that cap many of the ridges in the Western Highland Rim. Typically the formation consists of well-rounded, poorly sorted chert gravel which is trimodal in size distribution. The gravel fraction (mode 15 to 40+ mm) consists of Devonian and Mississippian chert and a small percentage of sandstone pebbles. The medium sand fraction (mode 0.5 mm) consists mainly of angular to well-rounded chert grains developed by attrition during transport. Well-rounded and frosted quartz grains also are present. The fine fraction (mode 0.15 mm) consists of clay, authi-genic (?) mica, and quartz.

At its eastern limit the Tuscaloosa is locally well sorted and contains quartz pebbles and a large proportion of quartz sand. Also present in the same area are well-sorted, heavy-mineral-bearing sands and bimodal (0.04, 0.2 mm) siltstone, which contains sand-sized pellet aggregates and fragmentary plant fossils.

The finest fraction (less than 0.044 mm) of both eastern and western facies of the Tuscaloosa consists of 60-80 per cent quartz, 5-30 per cent kaolin, and 5-30 per cent montmorillonite, all of which are present in Devonian and Mississippian bedrock. Minor exotic constituents include volcanic(?) glass and heavy minerals.

The Mississippian chert gravel in the Tuscaloosa is of local origin, but the Devonian chert was transported from a western source. Other components from a western source are sandstone pebbles and frosted sand grains, both of which probably were derived from Cambrian or Ordovician formations that cropped out on the Pascola arch, an eastward-sloping extension of the Ozark dome. Quartz pebbles, heavy minerals, and some of the angular quartz sand present at the eastern edge of the Tuscaloosa may have been derived from Pennsylvanian sandstone and conglomerates that cropped out north and south of the Pascola arch.

Most of the Tuscaloosa Formation is believed to be of nonmarine origin, deposited on the eastward-sloping flank of the Pascola arch. The eastern facies of the Tuscaloosa is believed to be partly marine in origin, the exotic components having been swept in by longshore currents.

During deposition of the Tuscaloosa, the Ozark dome and the Cincinnati arch were connected by the Pascola arch, which is now deeply buried beneath the Mississippi Embayment, At that time the Pascola arch stood structurally about 3000 feet higher than at present, and its structural shape and dimensions were comparable to the present Nashville dome. During deposition of the Tuscaloosa the Nashville dome was structurally about 1000 feet lower than at present, and its crest probably was submerged beneath the sea.

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