Bedrock geology and mineral resources of the Knoxville 1°x2° quadrangle, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina

Bulletin 1979
By: , and 



The Knoxville 1°X2° quadrangle spans the Southern Blue Ridge physiographic province at its widest point from eastern Tennessee across western North Carolina to the northwest corner of South Carolina. The quadrangle also contains small parts of the Valley and Ridge province in Tennessee and the Piedmont province in North and South Carolina. Bedrock in the Valley and Ridge consists of unmetamorphosed, folded and thrust-faulted Paleozoic miogeoclinal sedimentary rocks ranging in age from Cambrian to Mississippian. The Blue Ridge is a complex of stacked thrust sheets divided into three parts: (1) a west flank underlain by rocks of the Late Proterozoic and Early Cambrian Chilhowee Group and slightly metamorphosed Late Proterozoic Ocoee Supergroup west of the Greenbrier fault; (2) a central part containing crystalline basement of Middle Proterozoic age (Grenville), Ocoee Supergroup rocks east of the Greenbrier fault, and rocks of the Murphy belt; and (3) an east flank containing the Helen, Tallulah Falls, and Richard Russell thrust sheets and the amphibolitic basement complex. All of the east flank thrust sheets contain polydeformed and metamorphosed sedimentary and igneous rocks of mostly Proterozoic age. The Blue Ridge is separated by the Brevard fault zone from a large area of rocks of the Inner Piedmont to the east, which contains the Six Mile thrust sheet and the ChaugaWalhalla thrust complex. All of these rocks are also polydeformed and metamorphosed sedimentary and igneous rocks. The Inner Piedmont rocks in this area occupy both the Piedmont and part of the Blue Ridge physiographic provinces.

The intensity of deformation and metamorphism increases from west to east in the Blue Ridge. The west flank is mostly chlorite grade or relatively unmetamorphosed, and the central part of the Blue Ridge is mostly staurolite, garnet, or biotite grade, although sillimanite grade rocks occur along the eastern part of the central Blue Ridge in the vicinity of the leading edge of the Hayesville fault. The east flank of the Blue Ridge and much of the Inner Piedmont are at kyanite or sillimanite grade of regional metamorphism except for a zone of retrograde rocks in the Brevard fault zone and a small area of biotite-grade rocks in the extreme southwest part of the Grandfather Mountain window in the northeast corner of the quadrangle.

The major mineral resources in the Knoxville 1°x2° quadrangle are construction materials and a variety of industrial minerals mostly related to either granite and pegmatite or ultramafic rocks. Past production in the quadrangle of metals, which are of secondary importance relative to construction materials and industrial minerals, include copper in massive sulfides of the Besshi type, gold-bearing quartz veins, and residual iron and manganese deposits. Resources are discussed in relation to the Valley and Ridge, Blue Ridge, and Piedmont provinces.

The following resources are the most important:

A. Construction materials:

  1. Dimension stone of the Tennessee marble district in the Valley and Ridge.
  2. Limestone and dolomite of the Valley and Ridge.
  3. Sand and gravel and crushed stone, widespread throughout the quadrangle.

B. Industrial minerals:

  1. Feldspar, flake mica, and quartz produced by flotation methods from the Spruce Pine Alaskite (muscovite granodiorite) in the east flank of the Blue Ridge. The district produces about half of the U.S. feldspar and significant amounts of the U.S. flake mica.
  2. Olivine produced from alpine-type dunite bodies in the east flank of the Blue Ridge.
  3. Talc and marble from the Murphy belt in the central part of the Blue Ridge.
  4. Vermiculite produced from a large deposit near Tigerville, S.C., in the Inner Piedmont. Deposit worked out and mine backfilled. Smaller deposits associated with ultramafic rocks in the east flank of the Blue Ridge are now uneconomic and have not been worked in the past 20 years.

C. Metals:

  1. Copper in three deposits, the Fontana and Hazel Creek mines in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Central Blue Ridge, and the Cullowhee mine in the east flank of the Blue Ridge.

D. Organic fuels:

  1.  The rocks of the quadrangle contain no coal and probably lie outside the maximum range in thermal maturity permitting the survival of oil. The rocks in the Valley and Ridge and for a short distance eastward below the west flank of the Blue Ridge probably lie within a zone of thermal maturity permitting the survival of natural gas. Consequently the western part of the quadrangle is an area of high risk for hydrocarbon exploration. No exploration drilling has been done in this belt. 

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Bedrock geology and mineral resources of the Knoxville 1°x2° quadrangle, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina
Series title Bulletin
Series number 1979
DOI 10.3133/b1979
Year Published 1992
Language English
Publisher U.S. Government Printing Office
Publisher location Washington, DC
Contributing office(s) Eastern Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center
Description Report: v, 73 p.; 2 Plates: 20.00 x 13.00 inches and 31.00 x 36.50 inches
Country United States
State North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N