Surficial and applied surficial geology of the Belchertown Quadrangle, Massachusetts

Open-File Report 77-633




Till and stratified drift overlie maturely dissected topography in the Belchertown quadrangle, an area that straddles the New England Upland and Connecticut Valley Lowland in central Massachusetts. Lower Paleozoic, massive quartzo-feldspathic gneiss, quartzite and schist of the Pelham dome and Devonian granodiorite and quartz diorite of the Belchertown intrusive complex are in contact with Triassic arkosic fanglomerate and basalt along a lengthy normal fault separating the New England Upland from the Connecticut Valley Lowland. The orientation of striae, roches moutonnees, and streamline ridges indicate that the last Wisconsinian glacier advanced generally south 12? east. This glacier removed several meters of rock from the upland and an unknown larger quantity from the preglacial valley of the Connecticut River. Till is thin in the uplands, but several tens of feet of drift overlie bedrock in the lowland. Three lithic facies of sandy, clast-rich, non-compact, subarkosic till derived from the three major source rocks rest on bedrock or on highly weathered, compact, clast-poor, fissile probably older till. The mean for all upper till is 69.6% sand, 21.7% silt, and 8.8% clay; lower till consists of 48% sand, 23% silt and 29% clay. Mud-rich, compact, sparsely stony till in drumlins in and along the flank of the Connecticut Valley Lowland is composed of 51.5% sand, 28% silt, and 20.5% clay. Upper tills are facies equivalent deposits of the youngest Wisconsinian drift. Lower till is compact deeply weathered, jointed and stained suggesting it is correlative with other lower till in New England deposited by an earlier Wisconsinian glacier. Drumlin till may be a facies equivalent of a lower till or a mud-rich upper till derived from earlier glaciolacustrine deposits. Upper and lower till of the Belchertown quadrangle is texturally similar to other New England upper and lower tills to which they are equivalent. Both tills are interpreted as lodgment till derived from similar bedrock terrane by two different glaciers. The older glacier incorporated mud-rich saprolite producing a fine grained till, while the younger glacier eroded fresh bedrock or a thin regolith produced by mechanical weathering. During stagnation zone retreat of the last glacier, stratified drift was deposited by melt water in, on, alongside or down valley from stagnant ice. The absence of stratified drift along upland divides indicates that stagnation did not begin till large nunataks were emergent. Kame terraces, kame deltas, and ice channel fillings indicate that melt water flowed along stagnant ice and emptied into temporary proglacial lakes. As downwasting progressed, water was able to drain at lower elevation into expanding lakes, the last of which merged with northward-expanding proglacial Lake Hitchcock in the Connecticut Valley. Initial melt water drainage to the southeast was followed by drainage to the southwest to the ancestral Chicopee River. With the opening of the Narrows, Lake Hitchcock expanded northward and eastward to form the Amherst embayment into which melt water from the eastern uplands drained. Sand and gravel overlying varves in the Amherst embayment was deposited in late-glacial Lake Lawrence, which coalesced with equivalent Lake Hadley through cols between drumlins in the Connecticut Valley Lowland. Deglaciation of the Belchertown quadrangle probably occurred in a span of about 100 years in the interval 12,000 to 12,500 years B.P. Unconsolidated sediments of the Belchertown quadrangle are summarized as to their geologic and geotechnical properties for land use planning. Drift as it influences groundwater flow, yield, and quality and as a construction material is assessed. Some environmental degradation has occurred from the indiscriminant disposal of liquid and solid waste as well as injudicious use of road salt.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Surficial and applied surficial geology of the Belchertown Quadrangle, Massachusetts
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey,
ca. 150 leaves :ill., maps (4 fold., 2 col.) ;28 cm.; (122 p., 5 sheets - PGS)