Outlier of Trenton Group limestones (Ordovician) and Clinch Sandstone (Silurian) and associated unconformities in the Tellico-Sevier syncline, Blount County, Tennessee, identified on the basis of conodont biostratigraphy

Document Type


Publication Date



© 2019 The Geological Society of America. All rights reserved. A laterally discontinuous sandstone at the south end of the Tellico-Sevier syncline in Blount County, Tennessee, was mapped in 1955 by Robert Neuman and in 1965 by Neuman and Willis Nelson of the U.S. Geological Survey as a "quartzite"that they considered to be the uppermost bed of the Bays Formation (Ordovician). On the basis of new mapping and conodont biostratigraphy, lithostratigraphy, and regional K-bentonite correlations, this sandstone, a distinctive quartz arenite, is reassigned to and correlated with the Clinch Sandstone (Silurian). At the Harrison Branch section (HBRA) in Blount County, in an exposure near the confluence of Harrison Branch and the Little Tennessee River, this sandstone underlies the Devonian Chattanooga Shale, and it overlies ~43 m of gray limestones and shales that are themselves above the red clastic and minor carbonate rocks of the Bays Formation. The limestones and shales between the Bays Formation and this sandstone crop out on a wooded hillside and were apparently not observed by Neuman and Nelson during their mapping of the region. We measured the HBRA section, collected 20 samples from the limestone interval, and processed them for conodonts. These limestones contain a definitive Late Ordovician (Katian) conodont fauna that includes Drepanoistodus suberectus, Plectodina tenuis, Panderodus gracilis, and Phragmodus undatus. On the basis of this fauna, the 40+ m of limestone between the youngest red beds of unequivocal Bays Formation (below) and the quartz arenite (above) can be assigned to the Ordovician P. tenuis zone or younger, making them correlative regionally with limestones of the Trenton Group. Using these new biostratigraphic data combined with existing tephrostratigraphic relations of Ordovician K-bentonites, we identify the overlying sandstone at the HBRA section as an erosional outlier of the Silurian Clinch Sandstone, and we correlate the Ordovician-Silurian-Devonian unconformities at these two localities, which are now better constrained, with unconformities A through F in the Silurian and Devonian of this region, as identified and described in detail at several exposures north and northwest of the Tellico-Sevier syncline, most prominently at outcrops near Wytheville, Seven Mile Ford, and Max Meadows in southwest Virginia, where Devonian strata unconformably overlie Ordovician strata.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Special Paper of the Geological Society of America

First Page


Last Page


This document is currently not available here.