Two differential depositional sequences are recognized within a 37-m-thick lowermost section of the Conemaugh Group of Late Pennsylvanian (Westphalian D) age in the southern part of the Upper Potomac coal field (panhandle of Maryland and adjacent West Virginia). The first sequence is dominated by the Upper Freeport coal bed and zone (UF); the UF consists of a complex of interfingered thick coal beds and mudrocks. The UF underlies the entire 500 km2 study area (approximately 40 km in a NE-SW direction). The second sequence is dominated by medium- to coarse-grained sandstone and pebbly sandstone. They were deposited in channel belts that cut into and interfingered laterally with mudrock and fine- to medium-grained sandstone facies of floodbasin and crevasse-lobe origin. Thin lenticular coals occur in the second sequence. Nowhere in the study area does coarse-grained sandstone similar to the sandstone of the channel belts of the second sequence occur within the UF. However, 20 km north of the study area, coarse channel belts are found that are apparently synchronous with the UF (Lyons et al., 1984). The southeastern margin of the study are is bounded by the Allegheny Front. Between it and the North Mountain thrust (75 km to the southeast), lie at least eight other thrusts of unknown extent (Wilson, 1887). All these thrusts are oriented northwest; Devonian and older strata are exposed at the surface between the Allegheny Front and the North Mountain thrust. A blind-thrust ridge model is proposed to explain the relation of the two markedly depositional sequences to the thrusts that lie to the southeast of the Upper Potomac coal field. This model indicates that thrust ridges diverted coarse clastics from entering the swamp during a period when the thick Upper Freeport peat accumulated. Anticlinal thrust ridges and associated depressions are envisioned to have developed parallel to the Appalachian orogen during Middle and early Late Pennsylvanian time. A blind thrust developed from one of the outboard ridges, and it was thrust farther outboard ahead of the main body of the orogen. Sediment derived from the orogen was diverted into a sediment trap inboard of the ridge (Fig. 1). The ridge prevented sediment from entering the main peat-forming swamp. Sediment shed from the orogen accumulated in the sediment trap was carried out of the ends of the trap by steams that occupied the shear zone at the ends of the blind-thrust ridge (Fig. 1). Remnants of blind-thrust ridges occurs in the Sequatchie Valley thrust and the Pine Mountain thrust of the southern Appalachians. The extent, parallel to the orogen, of the thick areally extensive UF coal is related to the length of the blind-thrust ridge that, in turn, controlled the spacing of the river-derived coarse clastics that entered the main basin from the east. Further tectonism caused the thrust plane to emerge to the surface of the blind-thrust ridge. Peat accumulation was then terminated by the rapid erosion of the blind-thrust ridge and by the release of trapped sediment behind it. The peat was buried by sediments from streams from closely spaced channel belts] with intervening floodbasins. The model was implications for widespread peat (coal) deposits that developed in tropical regions, a few hundred kilometers inland from the sea during Pennsylvanian time (Belt and Lyons, 1989). ?? 1990.
Additional publication details
Thrust-ridge paleodepositional model for the Upper Freeport coal bed and associated clastic facies, Upper Potomac coal field, Appalachian Basin, U.S.A.