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Rhode Island Geologic Map

Geologic Maps of the 50 United States


Rhode Island is part of an ancient island, Avalonia, that joined North America long ago. (more below)
Rhode Island's rocks

Click the image for a 1000 x 1450 version

Rhode Island Geological Survey
The smallest state, Rhode Island has been lovingly mapped at 1:100,000 scale. If you live there, this inexpensive map is well worth buying from the Rhode Island Geological Survey.

Like the rest of New England, Rhode Island is largely covered by sand and gravel dating from the latest ice age. Bedrock is found in scattered outcrops or in roadcuts and building foundations and mines. This map ignores the surface coating for the living rock beneath, except on the coast and on Block Island, in Long Island Sound.

The whole state lies in the Avalon terrane, a block of crustal rocks that once lay off the North American continent more than 550 million years ago. Two chunks of that terrane are separated by a major shear zone running down the west edge of the state. The Hope Valley subterrane is on the west (in light brown) and the Esmond-Dedham subterrane is on the right covering the rest of the state. It in turn is broken in two by the light-toned Narragansett basin.

These subterranes have been intruded by igneous rocks in two main orogenies, or mountain-building episodes. The first was the Avalonian orogeny in the Late Proterozoic, and the second includes the Alleghenian orogeny, from Devonian through Permian time (about 400 to 290 million years ago). The heat and forces of those orogenies left most of the state's rocks metamorphosed. The colored lines in the Narragansett basin are contours of metamorphic grade where this can be mapped.

The Narragansett basin formed during this second orogeny and is filled with largely sedimentary rocks, now metamorphosed. Here is where Rhode Island's few fossils and coal beds are found. The green strip on the south shore represents a later Permian intrusion of granites near the end of the Alleghenian orogeny. The next 250 million years are years of erosion and uplift, exposing the deeply buried layers that now lie on the surface.

See a gallery of Rhode Island geological attractions.

The 2000x2900 pixel version of this map (2 MB) shows much more detail along with an explanation of geologic symbols. The chart of rock units (1600x1750, 600 KB) will help you identify each color zone. The giant-sized 3200x4600 pixel version (3 MB) of this map has all the detail of my original scan.

More about Rhode Island Geology

More Rhode Island resources on About.com:
Rhode Island Maps
Rhode Island Geography, State Symbols & Facts
Rhode Island National Parks
Rhode Island State Parks
Rhode Island Campgrounds
Rhode Island Sightseeing
Rhode Island Fishing
Rhode Island Bed & Breakfasts

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