Recent studies of marine continental shelves show that hyperpycnal flows are responsible for offshore transport of large volumes of sediment. Detailed facies analysis and petrography of the lower Genesee Group in the Northern Appalachian Basin (NAB) shows a wealth of sedimentary textures and fabrics that indicate mud deposition by lateral transport across and along the shelf under energetic conditions. Intervals of silt-rich mudstones and muddy siltstones with internal scours, diffuse stratification, soft-sediment deformation, normal and inverse lamina-set grading, and a reduced intensity and diversity of bioturbation occur in multiple facies types and “interrupt” what appears to be the overall background sedimentation. These intervals and their sedimentary features are interpreted as products of high-density fluvial discharge events, which generated turbulent flows that carried fine-grained clastics several tens of kilometers offshore from the paleoshoreline.
Recognizing these sediments as products of river-flood- and storm-wave-generated offshore-directed underflows challenges previous depositional models for organic-rich mudstones in the lower Genesee succession, which call for clastic starvation and suspension settling of clay and silt in a deep stratified basin. Rapid deposition of fine-grained intervals from hyperpycnal plumes in a setting favoring preservation of organic-rich mudstones calls for a reappraisal of the depositional setting of not only the Genesee Group, but also of comparable mudstone successions in the Appalachian Basin and elsewhere.