The Tuscarora Sandstone is a prominent ridge-forming sedimentary rock in eastern West Virginia. It was named in the 1890s for exposures on Tuscarora Mountain in Pennsylvania. It is the oldest Silurian-period rock found in West Virginia and forms scenic landforms including Seneca Rocks, North Fork Mountain, Panther Knob, and Greenland Gap.
Approximately 150–200 feet thick, the Tuscarora is a quartz-rich sandstone known to geologists as arenite. The sand grains that compose the sandstone are cemented by silica, making the rock very hard and very durable. Close observation of the sandstone reveals sedimentary structures such as cross-bedding and trace fossils that indicate that the Tuscarora was most likely deposited in a shoreline environment. It was initially deposited in Early Silurian times as part of an apron of sediment shed from mountains that had formed to the east. Deep burial and cementation of the sediment (a process known as lithification) changed the sediment into the sedimentary rock we observe today.
West of the Allegheny Front the Tuscarora lies between 5,000 and 10,000 feet beneath the ground. In the western parts of the state, it has been a minor target for natural gas exploration, but only small commercial accumulations of gas have been found. Because of its strength and durability, the sandstone has little economic value except possibly as building stone. Softer sandstones, which can be crushed into sand for making glass, concrete and other purposes, are preferred.
This Article was written by David Matchen
Last Revised on November 05, 2010
Avary, K. L. "Play Sts: The Lower Silurian Tuscarora Sandstone Fractured Anticlinal Play," in J. B. Roen & B. J. Walker, eds, Atlas of Major Appalachian Gas Plays. Morgantown: West Virginia Geological & Economic Survey, 1996.
Pettijohn, F. J., et al. A Basic Discussion of Sedimentation. Sand & Sandstone. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1973.