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Surficial materials of Massachusetts—A 1:24,000-scale geologic map database

March 1, 2019

The surficial materials geologic map database defines the distribution of nonlithified earth materials at the land surface in the 189 7.5-minute, 1:24,000-scale quadrangles that cover the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (index map). Across the State, these materials range in thickness from a few feet to more than 500 feet (ft). In some places, surficial materials are absent where bedrock is at the land surface. The geologic map database differentiates surficial materials of Quaternary age on the basis of their lithologic characteristics (such as grain size and sedimentary structures), constructional geomorphic features, stratigraphic relationships, and age. The mapped distribution of surficial materials defines the areas of exposed bedrock and the boundaries between glacial till, glacial stratified deposits, and overlying postglacial deposits at a 1:24,000-scale level of accuracy.

Most of the surficial materials in Massachusetts are deposits of the last two continental ice sheets that covered all of New England in the latter part of the Pleistocene ice age. The glacial deposits are divided into two broad categories, glacial till and moraine deposits, and glacial stratified deposits. Widespread till deposits were laid down directly on bedrock or on semi-consolidated coastal plain strata by glacier ice. Tills in thick-till (>15 ft thick) drumlin landforms are found in all parts of the State. Areas of shallow bedrock contain thin discontinuous till deposits and numerous bedrock outcrops, and are located chiefly in rocky upland areas. Moraine deposits related to glacial ice lobes of the last ice sheet are located mostly in southeastern Massachusetts. Glacial stratified deposits are concentrated in valleys and lowland areas and were laid down by glacial meltwater in streams, lakes, and the sea in front of the retreating ice margin during the last deglaciation. Postglacial deposits, primarily flood-plain alluvium and swamp deposits, make up a lesser proportion of the unconsolidated materials.

The geodatabase included with this report contains MapUnitPolys, MapUnitOverlayPolys, and OverlayPolys, which show the distribution of geologic units that cover the entire map area and are intended for use at quadrangle scale (1:24,000). These data layers can be clipped by quadrangle or by town boundary. Unlike the units in conventional geologic maps, the digitally defined MapUnitOverlayPolys are arranged in order according to superposition. The polygons for till and bedrock are on the bottom and are overlain by the succeeding stratified deposits; these materials are shown everywhere they occur, including beneath postglacial deposits such as swamp deposits, and also beneath water bodies. The postglacial deposits are on top because these materials overlie the other, older deposits. Instructions for using the digital files are included in the README file. A series of map figures in the pamphlet illustrates the stacking of geologic units in a portion of the Mount Toby quadrangle. The BaseMaps folder contains the 1:24,000-scale topographic base map images (1944–1977 editions) used for this compilation.

This report supersedes U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Reports 2006-1260-A, -B, -C, -D, -E, -F, -G, and -I.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2018
Title Surficial materials of Massachusetts—A 1:24,000-scale geologic map database
DOI 10.3133/sim3402
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Map
Series Number 3402
Index ID sim3402
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center