Georgia SuperGraphic

Ancient Creations

 Two hundred million years ago, unknown beauty was brewing beneath the surface of present day Providence Canyon, which lies in the coastal-plain region of Georgia and was once completely under water. The canyons were carved partially by preexisting layers of loose, unconsolidated sediments deposited by water in ancient streams, seas, deltas and coastal beaches between 59 and 74 million years ago. Exposed along the canyon walls is the intriguing geologic record of several million years that tells its own tale. This geologic display surfaced because poor farming practices loosened sediment, which led to rapid erosion. Fortunately, those who visit Providence Canyon now have the joy of standing at several observation levels to marvel at the various colors revealed in the canyon walls. There are 43 different colors of sands on the canyon walls, and geologists have separated the sediments that form the canyon and the marvelous white, pink, purple, red, brown, yellow and black canyon bluffs into four major geologic formations. The current formations are:

The Baker Hill Formation
59 to 62 million years ago, this formation was deposited during the Tertiary Period. This is the youngest formation and forms the uppermost part of soils in Providence Canyon, and therefore does not appear in the canyon walls. The entrance road to the park currently lies on top of it.

The Clayton Formation
Also deposited during the Tertiary Period, after the dinosaurs left, the Clayton Formation is now visible at the top of the canyon walls. The sand of the Clayton Formation is coarse and reddish in color, due to iron oxide present in the soil.

The Providence Formation
This formation, also known as the Providence Sands, makes up the majority of the canyon walls, which are 119' thick. Deposited during the Cretaceous Period, the Providence Formation is about 67 to 70 million years old. The upper layer of this formation consists of very fine sand mixed with white clay called kaolin. The middle layer is coarser grained and more colorful, with crossbeds stained yellow by limonite and purple by manganese. The lowest and oldest layer is black and yellow mica-rich clay. This part of the formation is known as the Perote Member and is visible near the bottom of the canyon.

The Ripley Formation
This formation, which is the ancient sea floor, makes up the canyon floor and was also deposited during the Cretaceous Period 70 to 74 million years ago. The Ripley Formation is orange in color and its composition varies from clay to massively bedded sand. This formation has the richest fossil content in the park , but is poorly exposed and mostly overgrown.

Related images

Georgia's Little Grand Canyon
Photo Courtesy of Harris Hatcher.
Georgia's Little Grand Canyon
Photo Courtesy of Sharnita Flintroy.

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