The Culpeper basin is part of a much larger system of ancient depressions or troughs, that lie inboard of the Atlantic Coastal Plain, and largely within the Applachian Piedmont Geologic Province of eastern North America, and the transition region with the neighboring Blue Ridge Geologic Province. This basin system formed during an abortive attempt to make a great ocean basin during the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic, and the eroded remnants of the basins record major episodes of sedimentation, igneous intrusion and eruption, and pervasive contact metamorphism. Altogether, some twenty nine basins formed between what is now Nova Scotia and Georgia. Many of these basins are discontinuous along their strike, and have therefore recorded isolated environments for fluvial and lacustrine sedimentation.
Several basins (including the Culpeper, Gettysburg, and Newark basins) are fault-bounded on the west, and Mesozoic crustal stretching has produced assymetrical patterns of basin subsidence resulting in a progressive basin deepening to the west, and a virtual onlap relationship with the pre-basin Proterozoic rocks to the east. A result of such a pattern of basin deepening is the development of sequences of sandstones and siltstones that systemmatically increase in dip towards the accomodating western border faults. A second major structural theme in several of the major Mesozoic basins (including the Culpeper) concerns the geometry of igneous intrusion, as discussed below. Froelich (1982, 1985) and Lee and Froelich (1989) discuss the general geology of the Culpeper basin, and Smoot (1989) discusses the sedimentation environments and sedimentary facies of the Mesozoic with respect to fluvial and shallow lacustrine deposition in the Culpeper basin. Ryan and others, 2007a, b, discuss the role of diabase-induced compartmentalization in the Culpeper basin (and other Mesozoic basins), and illustrate (using alteration mineral suites within the diabase and adjacent hornfels, among other evidence) how this process has played a role in organizing the paleo- and contemporary-flow of crustal fluids at local and regional scales. Within this report, the Newark Supergroup nomenclature of Weems and Olsen (1997) is adopted.