The Geologic Column and Its Implications to the Flood

Copyright 1995,1996,2000, 2003 and 2007 G.R. Morton. This can be freely distributed so long as no changes are made and no charges are made. (

When I started the research for this page back in 1996, I didn't think there would be many places in the world where the entire geologic column was found stacked up. I was wrong. I had based this view upon the rarity of the entire geologic column found by John Woodmorappe in his 1979 paper. He was also wrong. New drilling, new availability of information from distant places means that every few months I find a new place which has all of the geologic periods piled up. Today I added the Pricaspian Basin.--GRM 02-15-2003.

ABSTRACT: A detailed examination of the young earth creationist claim that the geologic column does not exist. It is shown that the entire geologic column exists in North Dakota. This is not done to disprove the Bible but to encourage Christians who are in the area of apologetics to do a better job of getting the facts straight.

I recently had a private discussion with a gentleman concerning the nature of the Haymond beds in Southwestern Texas. The issues which this raised might be of some interest.

The Haymond beds consist of 15,000 alternating layers of sand and shale. The sands have several characteristic sedimentary features which are found on turbidite deposits. Turbidites are deep water deposits in which each sand layer is deposited in a brief period of time, by a submarine ‘landslide’ (I am trying to avoid jargon here) and the shale covering it is deposited over a long period of time. I made the comment that one feature of this deposit made it an excellent argument for an old earth and local flood.

Earle F. McBride (McBride, 1969, p. 87-88) writes:

“Two thirds of the Haymond is composed of a repetitious alternation of fine- and very fine-grained olive brown sandstone and black shale, in beds from a millimeter to 5 cm thick. The formation is estimated to have more than 15,000 sandstone beds greater than 5 mm thick” (p. 87). “Tool-mark casts (chiefly groove casts), flute casts, and flute-lineation casts are common current-formed sole marks. Trace fossils in the form of sand-filled burrows are present on every sandstone sole, but nearly absent within sandstone beds.” p. 88

For the non-geologist who is reading this, it means that the burrows are in the shales (made from mud, which takes a long time to be deposited), so the animals would have lots of time to dig their burrows. The sandstones are the catastrophic deposit that covers and fills in the burrows with sand. The fact that there are no burrows in the sand proves that the sand was deposited rapidly.

I pointed out that if the all the sedimentary record had to be deposited in a year long flood of Noah, then given that the entire geologic column in this area is 5,000 meters thick, and that the Haymond beds are 1300 m thick, then the Haymond beds represent 1300/5000 of the total thickness. Using that fraction, we can calculate that the part of the Flood year in which the Haymond beds were deposited, thus, 1300/5000*365 days = 95 days for the Haymond beds to be deposited. Since there are 15,000 of these layers, then 15,000/95 days = 157 layers per day need to be deposited. The problem is that the animals that made the burrows mentioned above need some time to re-colonize and re-burrow the shale. Is it really reasonable to believe that 157 times per day or 6.5 times per hour all the burrowers were buried, and a new group colonized above the killed burrowers for the process to be repeated? Even allowing a day for each cycle would require 41 years for this deposit to be laid down.

The response surprised me a little. My friend remarked that all I had proven was that the Haymond beds were not deposited by the flood, but other beds were. This suggests that we need to find the flood layer, so what I have done is examine each of the rock units in the Williston Basin of Montana, North Dakota and southern Canada with the purpose of determining if any of the layers could have been the flood deposit. I have mentioned before that the entire geologic column exists in this locale (contrary to young-earth creationist claims) so there is not likely to be anything significant missing here. I might mention that some of the beds I will discuss are quite extensive, covering large parts of the Western United States. I mention this because some of the articles refer to regions where the rocks, deeply buried in North Dakota, come to the surface far from that area.

This long article is divided into a description of the geologic column, and then a conclusion. Since there are 15,000 feet of sedimentary rock here, it takes a lot to describe the whole column. Everything is documented for those who want to check me out. I WOULD SUGGEST THAT IF YOU GET BORED WITH READING THE DESCRIPTION OF THE COLUMN, SKIP TO THE CONCLUSION SECTION, WHICH IS RELATIVELY SHORT. One note on terminology: a formation is a sequence of beds of different lithologies than those above and below it. A formation may include both marine and continental layers.

The definition of the geologic column that I will use is the one used by Morris and Parker in the following quotation.

“Now the geologic column is an idea, not an actual series of rock layers. Nowhere do we find the complete sequence. Even the walls of the Grand Canyon included only five of the twelve major systems (one, five, six and seven, with small portions here and there of the fourth system, the Devonian.” (Morris and Parker, 1987, p. 163)

They are saying that there is no place on earth where all twelve of the periods are found. Given that the Precambrian is always found if one drills deeply enough, we merely need to find places with the eleven Phanerozoic periods present. What we will see below is that such situations do occur. In point of fact, Morris and Parker define the geologic column in a silly fashion. There is no place on earth that has sediments from every single day since the origin of the earth. No geologist would require this level of detail from the geologic column. But if there are sediments left at a given site once every hundred thousand years or so, then at the scale of the geological column, the entire column would exist. There would still be erosional surfaces contained in that column and that would mean that on some days no sediment was left at a given location to mark the passage of those days.

Woodmorappe has written an article for Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, which he has published on the web. Woodmorappe's paper. He says:

“Creationists do not say that every single day's deposits must be preserved! The fact is that Morris and Parker are not talking about a little of the daily sediment being missing. If we read the Morris and Parker quote again, we can see that the 100- or 200-mile column is not the presumed product of daily sedimentation. Rather, the 100- to 200-mile column represents the sum of the thickest sections from the field of each of the ten Phanerozoic systems and/or their major components.”

“Now what does all this mean? Common sense teaches us that 16 miles (at most) which exists, out of a total of 100 or 200 miles, is a very incomplete column!”

Woodmorappe rests his entire case upon this 200-mile-thick column that he says must be there if the geologic column is to be real. We will examine that statement. Woodmorappe writes:

“There are a number of locations on the earth where all ten periods of the Phanerozoic geologic column have been assigned. However, this does not mean that the geological column is real. Firstly, the presence or absence of all ten periods is not the issue, because the thickness of the sediment pile, even in those locations, is only a small fraction (8-16% or less) of the total thickness of the hypothetical geologic column. Without question, most of the column is missing in the field.”

This, of course is, NOT the definition of the geologic column that any GEOLOGIST would use. If we can show that Woodmorappe's logic is flawed, then we can show that his case falls flat on its face. Woodmorappe and other young-earth creationists are trying to say that if we add the thickest sediments in each period from anywhere in the world this defines the entire geologic column. This is a ridiculous and silly argument. This is like saying the following:

The Antarctic region receives less than 0.10 of an inch of snow per year, places in Colorado Ski country receive up to 5-10 feet of snow per year, and Houghton, Michigan, receives up to 20 feet per year. Let us add up the maximum snow fall anywhere in the world each day of the year. Most likely we would tally up something like 200 feet of snow as the total maximum daily snow fall. If we then conclude that this means that Antarctica only gets 1/2,000 of the yearly snow fall and therefore Antarctica doesn't represent a full year's snowfall, we would have done the same thing that Woodmorappe is doing with the geologic column. This is rather spurious to say the least. Antarctica received a full year's worth of snowfall, but it happens to be a smaller amount than Vail, Colorado, received. Similarly, to add up the maximum sedimentation in each geologic period and then expect that that represents the entire geologic column is perverse. Woodmorappe's argument doesn't stand up.

Today, Woodmorappe claims that the real issue with regard to the geologic column is the small percentage of the maximum sedimentation that exists. If Woodmorappe really felt that the existence of the 10 periods was of no importance, if Woodmorappe really thought that the small percentage of the 200 miles was the real issue, why did he spend his entire 1981 article talking about where the 10 periods existed? One would think he would spend the most time on the most important issue. He spent the most space discussing the 10 periods and I can't find a single paragraph on what he now says is important. Woodmorappe's entire article belies his current claim.

We will now examine the strata that form the entire geologic column that is found in North Dakota, beginning with the Cambrian and working our way up.


The Cambrian of this region consists of the Deadwood Formation. This formation has two parts. There is a lower unit of sandstone with Scolithus burrows (Wilmarth, Part 1, 1938, p. 578). Such Scolithus burrows are widely found in similar basal sandstones around the world. They are found in Newfoundland, Scotland, Antarctica, and Greenland, always in Cambrian sands. Some trilobites have also been found in the Deadwood. Thus, the sand that formed the sandstone appears to have been the tranquil home for whatever animal made the Scolithus burrows. These basal quartzites are composed of nearly pure sand, and winnowing the fine particles out of the sand must have taken considerable time. This would have required gentle and repeated agitation, and it is unlikely it could have been accomplished in a yearlong flood with much turbulence. But along a beach, that would sort out the clay

Above the sandstone unit is black shale. The very small size of the mud particles that compose shale requires quiet, tranquil waters for deposition to take place. This is one of the unrecognized difficulties of flood geology. Shale units, which constitute approximately 46% of the geologic column, are evidence, by their existence, of tranquil waters.

The shale is overlain by the Ordovician Winnipeg Formation. It consists of a sandstone unit with a lithology very similar to that of the Deadwood Scolithus sand, “suggesting that the Deadwood Sandstone may be a source for the Winnipeg Sandstone.” (Bitney, 1983, p. 1330) This would mean that local erosion of the Deadwood, rather than a world wide catastrophe, provided the sand for the Winnipeg sand. The Winnipeg does not have Scolithus burrows.

The lowest part of the Winnipeg is called the Black Island Formation. Above it is the Icebox shale (also part of the Winnipeg group. Once again, the mud that becomes shale requires still water for deposition.

Above the Icebox lies 1,300 feet of Ordovician limestone and dolomite, the Red River, Stony Mountain and Stonewall Formations, collectively known as the Bighorn Dolomite. (Data from W. H. Hunt Trust Larson #1 well, Mckenzie Co., North Dakota.) These cannot be flood deposits simply for reasons of heat production in their formation. The amount of energy released per square meter for this thickness of rock would be 278 times the amount of energy received per square meter from the sun. Such energies would fry everybody and everything.

Mathematical calculation: Formation of carbonate rock liberates about 1,207 kilocalories per mole (Wittier et al, 1992, p. 576). A column 400 meters high with a cross section area of 1 square meter would include 400 million cc of carbonate. Since the density of the carbonate is around 2.5 g/cc this means that there are 10 million moles of carbonate deposited over each square meter. Multiply this by 1,207,000 calories per mole to get the amount of energy required per square meter. Now, if you divide by the solar constant (1.96 cal/sq cm/minute or approximately 1 billion calories per year per square meter), you find that to deposit these beds in one year requires that the energy emitted by each meter squared would be 1171 times that received by the sun.

Furthermore, throughout these carbonates are numerous burrows at all levels (Gerhard, Anderson and Fischer, 1990, p. 513; Kohm and Louden, 1983, p. 27). Also, these Ordovician carbonates also show interesting features incompatible with a flood. The Red River formation started out as a limestone, but large parts of it were convered to dolomite. The interesting thing is that the dolomitization occurs where the burrows are and is less in the rest of the rock (Gerhard and Anderson, 1988, p. 228). This implies that the burrows were involved in allowing the ocean waters access to the limestone, converting it from calcium carbonate to magnesium carbonate. These carbonates also contain fossils, including graptolites, gastropods, cephalopods, and corals.

Next is the Silurian Interlake Formation. This formation consists of carbonates, anhydrite, and salt, with minor amounts of sand. Throughout this deposit are burrows, and mud cracks resulting from desiccation alternating with deposition (Lobue, 1983, p. 36-37). There are also intact corals of a group found only in the Paleozoic rocks. (Of three groups of hard coral organisms, two became extinct at the end of the Paleozoic, and the third appeared in the Mesozoic. The four-sided corals are found only in the Paleozoic. Modern corals of the 6-sided or 8-sided kind are not found until the Triassic.)

Above the Interlake are the Devonian formations. The Lower Devonian Winnepegosis Formation consists of two units. First, there is a bioclastic (i.e., made up of the shells of carbonate-producing animals) limestone. Above it is carbonate interbedded with anhydrite. Mud cracks found in this unit, as are burrows. (Perrin, 1983, p. 54, 57.) There is no sand and no shale, so it is difficult to see how this could be flood deposits. Furthermore, anhydrite is an evaporitic mineral and not compatible with a global flood.

The next Devonian bed is the Prairie Evaporite. It consists of dolomite, salt, gypsum, anhydrite, and potash. Most of the components of this bed are evaporitic and thus incompatible with deposition during a worldwide flood. (Gerhard, Anderson and Fischer, 1990, p. 515.) There are also oncolites which are spherically concentric carbonate depositions laid down through algal growth on shells after the shell-producing animals die. This takes time. (Wardlaw and Reinson, 1971, p. 1762). An excellent example of an oncolite is shown in figure 58 of Dean and Fouch (1983, p. 123). The caption says, “Cross section of an oncolite developed around a gastropod-shell nucleus from Ore Lake, Michigan. Concentric layering is the result of annual couplets of porous and dense laminae.”) Fig. 59 in Dean and Fouch is an example from the Eocene Period.

The Devonian Dawson Bay Formation is a carbonate that shows evidence of subaerial erosion (Pound, 1988, p. 879). The evidence consists of eroded limestone horizons that can't be created under the ocean. There is also salt cementation. This means that salt was deposited in the fractures and crevices in the rock. Halite-plugged burrows and numerous erosional surfaces are found (Dunn, 1983, p. 79, 85). Once again, hardly a result to be expected from the Flood.

Above this is the Souris River Formation. It consists of dolomite, limestone shale and anhydrite. Anhydrite requires high temperatures to be deposited.

Next is the Duperow Formation. It also shows signs of subaerial erosion, salt deposition in the pores, and anhydrite deposition. The deposition of these chemicals is more consistent with arid environments than with flood environments. (Dunn, 1974, p. 907). Burrows and stromatolites (limestone rocks deposited by daily increments of limestone deposited by algae on a shallow sea bottom, i.e., less than 30 feet deep,. See Burke, 1982, p. 554; Altsculd and Kerr, 1983, p. 104).

Above this is the Birdbear Formation with desiccation cracks, caliche development (caliche is widespread in west Texas, an arid region), and burrows. (Ehrets and Kissling, 1983, p. 1336; Halabura, 1983, p. 121)

Above this is the Threeforks Shale. Once again, a shale requires quiet water for the mud that forms it to be deposited. (Wilmarth, 1938, part 2, p. 2144)

The overlying Bakken Formation is an organic-rich shale. It was deposited during one of the eight great oceanic anoxic events (OAE's). During eight times in the geological history of the world, the oceanic circulation ceased, which stopped the circulation of oxygen rich waters to the bottom of the ocean. At these times, things dying in the surface waters would fall to the ocean bottom and the organic material would not decay. These events created black shales all over the world's oceans. The Bakken is the one from 360 million years. This one time generated approximately 8% of the world's oil. Here is a picture of the oceanic anoxic events and the oil they generated.

The Mississippian Madison group is probably my favorite deposit in the whole world. It consists of three formations, the lowest Lodgepole fm, the Mission Canyon Formation and the Charles Formation. It largely consists of dead crinoid parts. In the Hunt Larson #1 well it is 2200 feet thick. The following quotation makes the problem with the Madison quite understandable (Clark and Stearn, 1960, pp. 86-88):

“The upper Mission Canyon Formation (of the northwestern states and the Williston Basin) or the Livingstone Formation (of Alberta) is more interesting, not only for its contribution to mountain scenery but also for its lithology and importance as an oil reservoir.”

“Much of the massive limestone formation is composed of sand-sized particles of calcium carbonate, fragments of crinoid plates, and shells broken by the waves. Such a sedimentary rock qualifies for the name sandstone because it is composed of particles of sand size cemented together; because the term sandstone is commonly understood to refer to a quartz-rich rock, however, these limestone sandstones are better called calcarenites. The Madison sea must have been shallow, and the waves and currents strong, to break the shells and plates of the animals when they died. The sorting of the calcite grains and the cross-bedding that is common in this formation are additional evidence of waves and currents at work. Even in Mississippian rocks, where whole crinoids are rare fossils, and as a result it is easy to underestimate the population of these animals during the Paleozoic era. Crinoidal limestones, such as the Mission Canyon-Livingstone unit, provide an estimate, even though it be of necessity a rough one, of their abundance in the clear shallow seas they loved. In the Canadian Rockies the Livingstone limestone was deposited to a thickness of 2,000 feet on the margin of the Cordilleran geosyncline, but it thins rapidly eastward to a thickness of about 1,000 feet in the Front Ranges and to about 500 feet in the Williston Basin. Even though its crinoidal content decreases eastward, it may be calculated to represent at least 10,000 cubic miles of broken crinoid plates. How many millions, billions, trillions of crinoids would be required to provide such a deposit? The number staggers the imagination.”

That is enough crinoids to cover the entire earth to a depth of 3 inches and, yet this deposit is only a small part of a vast Mississippian crinoid bed that almost does cover the world (Morton, 1984, p. 26-27). These crinoidal limestones are called the Redwall in Arizona, the Leadville in Colorado, the Rundle in Canada, the Lisburne in Alaska, and the Keokuk and Burlington in the Mid-continent region of the U. S. Other crinoidal limestones are found in England, Belgium, European Russia, Egypt, Libya, central Asia, and Australia. How can the pre-flood world be covered in dead crinoids and still have room for people and the dinosaurs? At the top of the Madison is karst topography, including some caverns, formed through groundwater solution. There is also salt deposition and it is also heavily burrowed. Fossils in addition to crinoids include half-millimeter-long scolecodonts, spores, coral, ostracods, gastropods, and plants (Altschuld and Kerr, 1983, p. 106, 107).

Above the Madison is the Big Snowy group. Its lower part is composed of algal-laminated dolomite with desiccation features. Intertidal channels cut into this surface are filled with sand. (Guthrie, 1985, p. 850). The members of this group are the Kibbey Formation and the Otter Formation, which will be seen in the Hunt Oil well below.

Above this is the Minnelusa Formation which contains three features incompatible with the flood. First there is a dolomite with desiccation cracks. Secondly, there are two anhydrite layers with a peculiar “chicken-wire” structure (Achauer, 1982, p. 195). Thirdly, the sands are cross-bedded in a fashion identical to modern desert dunes. The importance of these three features is that desiccation is not likely in a world wide flood, and “chicken-wire” anhydrite only forms above 35 degrees C. and near the water table. (Hsu, 1972,p. 30). This type of anhydrite is deposited in the Persian Gulf area today. Fossils include brachiopods, cephalopods, gastropods, fish teeth, crinoids, and pelecypods. Beds like those in the Minnelusa are very likely to be deposited under flood waters.

In some nomenclatures, the Minnelusa formation includes the Tyler formation. In some, the Minnelusa is defined as being above the Tyler and equivalent in age to the Amsden Fm. These are the names to be seen in the Hunt well below.

The Opeche shale, of Permian age, overlies the Minnelusa. The interesting thing about the Opeche is that in the center of the basin, at its deepest part, it is salt — 300 feet of salt. Permian pollen is found in the salt, modern pollen is not found (Wilgus and Holser, 1984, p. 765, 766). This bed has the appearance of a period of time in which the Williston Sea dried up, leaving its salt behind in the deepest parts of the basin, as would be expected. The area of salt deposition is 188,400 square kilometers. Assuming that over this area the average thickness of salt is half that 300 feet (91 m) in the deepest part, or 45 meters, then this deposit represents 9 trillion cubic meters of salt! With a density of 2,160 kg/m^3 this represents the evaporation of 540,000 cubic kilometers of seawater. Randy Wickett (personal communication, Nov 27, 2002) points out that it takes 10^24 joules to evaporate this much water. That is two times more heat than would be necessary to raise the temperature of the entire atmosphere by more than 100 degrees Celsius. (Thanks to Dr. Wickett for catching a math error I had on a previous version of this page.)

Above this shale is the Permian Minnekahta Limestone, which was deposited in hypersaline waters. Hypersaline waters were not likely to be the flood waters, which would have been brackish at worst due to the large influx of rainwater.

Next is the Triassic Spearfish Formation. It contains the Pine Salt Bed, some gypsum, and highly oxidized sands and shales. These red beds have the appearance of the deposits found in modern arid environments. Gypsum is an evaporitic mineral. The Spearfish deposits have the appearance of modern deposits found on an arid intertidal flat (Wilmarth, 1938, p. 2037). There are conglomerates composed of fragments of Mississippian rocks, after the Mississippian rocks where deposited, hardened, and then eroded, with the eroded fragments deposited with the other sediments of the Spearfish redbeds. (Francis, 1956, p. 18)

The Jurassic Piper Formation comes next. The lowest member is the Dunham Salt (Gerhard, Anderson and Fischer, 1983, p. 529), followed by highly oxidized red beds (normally marine deposits are dark, while continental, subaerial deposits are reds and browns) with gypsum, and an evaporitic bed lies immediately above the salt (Peterson, 1958, p. 107). A thin limestone, followed by more redbeds and gypsum, finishes the Piper Formation.

The Rierdon Formation is a set of interbedded marine shales and evaporitic limestones. The region was intermittently covered by the ocean, and then exposed long enough, when the sea retreated for gypsum and anhydrite to be deposited, and salt once again to be formed. Salt can be deposited when an embayment of the sea gets cut off from the ocean and all the water evaporates, or when there is a small entrance to this embayment and the evaporation in the basin is greater than the rate sea water can flow in. This is similar to the Dead Sea where water flows in but can't flow out. When the water evaporates, salt is left behind. We know that it must have been above 35 degrees C. for anhydrite to form. Ocean water is not often that hot. These beds are also very fossiliferous, containing pelecypods, ostracods, and foraminifera (Peterson, 1972, p. 178). This formation also contains oolitic limestones. Since oolites are formed from algal deposition of limestone, deposition of these beds required some time.

The Jurassic Swift Formation is predominantly shale in the lower part. As noted, shale requires tranquil water for deposition. This shale has abundant belemnites, and pelecypods, all oceanic creatures. It overlies the terrestrial salt beds discussed previously. This oceanic deposit does not look like a flood deposit but the tranquil deposition from an ocean (Peterson, 1958, p. 112).

The Upper Jurassic continental Morrison Formation is next. This unit consists of sands and shales, and some coal. Fossil soil profiles are present (Mantzios, 1989, p. 1166). It extends from Canada to Arizona. Fossils include numerous dinosaur bones and footprints (Stokes, 1957, p. 952-954). Huge dinosaurs, as well as smaller ones are found here. Also, there are mammal bones and plants (Brown, 1946, p 238-248). Both the mammals and plants are different from anything alive today.

The Cretaceous begins with the Dakota Group, also called the Inyan Kara group. Unique ammonites mark each of the beds in the Cretaceous. Like the Morrison, the Dakota also is formed of sand and shales with lignite, a brown coal (Boyard, 1965, p. 1574). Parts of this group have ripple marks, burrows, animal tracks, and worm trails. The deposits are interpreted as being formed by a delta (Boyard and McGregor, 1966, p. 2221-2224). Numerous channels eroded into underlying strata, some of them 30 feet deep, are filled by the Dakota. There are numerous borings and volcanic ash layers, in which the ash is relatively pure. If the volcanoes that produced these ash layers occurred during a raging flood, the ash would have been thoroughly mixed with other sediment. It isn't. Plant fragments are found throughout the strata (Lane, 1963, p. 229- 256).

The Belle Fourche shale is next. As mentioned many times previously, shale development requires tranquil water. There is a bentonite (volcanic ash) bed near the base that would be mixed in with other sediments if it had been laid down in a raging flood.

Above the Belle Fourche is the Greenhorn Limestone, which is composed mostly of coccoliths, small carbonate plates approximately 3-5 micrometers in diameter, produced by planktonic organisms generally referred to as coccolithophorids. This formation is about 40 feet thick and consists of 16 ledge-forming, burrowed limestone beds, separated by thin shales. Over a distance of 450 miles the ledges lie on and below persistent bentonite (volcanic ash beds). The parallelism proves that the ledges are synchronous across their extent, following the eruption that produced the ash. The coccolithophorids had to grow in the water, and then die and fall to the bottom. When the coccolithophorids were not as productive in the waters above, shale-forming mud was deposited, separating the limestone beds. All of this required still water. After this, organisms burrowed into the sediment and left abundant fecal pellets as well as burrows and feeding traces (marks an animal makes on the sediment when he is feeding) (Hattin, 1971, p. 412-431; Savrda and Bottjer, 1993, p. 263-295).

The Cretaceous Carlile Shale lies above the Greenhorn. It consists of sands and shales. There are erosional channels, burrows, feeding markings. Shark teeth and bones are found. During its lifetime, a shark sheds numerous teeth that fall to the ocean floor and are buried (McLane, 1982, p. 71-90).

The Niobrara Chalk is next. Like the Greenhorn, it is made up largely of coccoliths, and has abundant fecal pellets made of the eaten remains of coccolithophorids. The fish that dined on the plankton let their presence be known by leaving their droppings. More than 100 bentonite beds are found throughout the formation. Fish bones and scales are found throughout the formation. The skeletal fossils of the Niobrara are quite interesting. There is a 14-foot Portheus (fish) that apparently died after trying to digest a smaller 6-foot fish. Skulls of the giant marine lizard Tylosaurus were found. Pterodactyls have also been recovered from this bed (Stokes and Judson, 1968, p. 372, 377, 379). Sediment-filled burrows occur rarely in the bed (Hattin, 1981, p. 831- 849). But what has recently come to my attention is that Fourier analysis of the Niobrara laminations reveals that the laminations vary in thickness according to the periodicities of the earth's orbital cycles. If this bed were deposited in a 2 to 8-day time frame required by the assumption of a global deluge of a one year flood (% of total column depth), there is absolutely no reason to find the earth's orbital periodicities in this rock (Fischer, 1993, p. 263-295).

The Pierre shale is rich in organic matter and that is contained almost entirely in the fecal pellets. Marine reptile bones are concentrated in the Sharon Springs member. Note in all the above, that the fossils are not sorted as Henry Morris theorized would occur from ecological zonation. This marine bed is above the Morrison bed which contains the dinosaurs (Parrish and Gautier, 1988, p. 232). There is also the Monument Hill Bentonite, 150-220 feet thick, which represents one huge volcanic eruption. Above this is another bentonite, the Inyan Kara, which is 100 feet thick. The deposits of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption pale by comparison (Robinson, et al., 1959, p. 109).

The Fox Hills Formation is next. It is composed of sandstones, shales, coal, and limestone. It contains coal, root casts, burrows of Ophiomorpha (a crab), dinosaur bones, turtle plates, shark teeth, and erosional channels over 120 feet deep. There is a fossil clam bed (Pettyjohn, 1967, p. 1361-1367).

The Hell Creek Formation is the last Cretaceous deposit. It tells one of the most interesting stories of any of the beds in the column. Other than the types of animals found in it, it looks just like the Ft. Union discussed below (McGookey, et al, 1972, p. 223). The Hell Creek section is formed of sands and shales, with many, many meandering channels incised into it. The fauna found in it consists of dinosaurs and Cretaceous-style mammals. The highest dinosaur layer is at the top of this section. The Hell Creek section contains the famous iridium anomaly associated with the K/T meteor impact. In 1984, the iridium in a 3-centimeter layer was about 12 nannograms/gram (ng/g) and in the other layers it was undetectable. Extremely few dinosaur remains or Cretaceous style mammals are found above the iridium anomaly, and only in the lowest layers of the Fort Union Formation. They are believed to have been eroded and re-deposited material. A look at the pollen/spore record reveals an interesting pattern also. Just below the iridium anomaly there is a ratio of 1 pollen grain to every fern spore. At the iridium anomaly, the angiosperm pollen practically disappears, the ratio being 100 fern spores to every angiosperm pollen grain. It is as if the angiosperm plants vanished. Several taxa of angiosperm pollen disappear at the iridium anomaly (Smit and Van der Kaars, 1984, p. 1177-1179). The stratigraphically-equivalent strata in Saskatchewan and New Mexico also shows the iridium anomaly, and the quantity of angiosperm pollen is severely decreased relative to the spores of ferns. The question is why would a global flood cause fern/pollen and iridium to alter in a way that would mimic an asteroid impact? (Kamo and Krogh, 1995, p. 281-284; Nichols et al., 1986, p. 714-717).

The Fort Union Formation is the first Tertiary deposit. It also cannot be the flood deposit. It consists of shale, sandstone, and conglomerate, and has erosional channels. The fossils consist of marsupials, a bat, the earliest known monkeys, the earliest known ungulates, alligator, root casts, fossil leaves, spores, and pollen (Keefer, 1961, p. 1310-1232). Animal burrows are quite common, as are minerals such as are deposited in poorly drained swamps, e.g., pyrite and siderite (Jackson, 1979, p. 831-832). It also has standing fossilized tree stumps (Hickey, 1977, p. 10).

The Golden Valley Formation is made of two layers, a hard kaolinitic claystone overlain by an upper member made of sandstone lenses interspersed with parallel-bedded finer grained material. Numerous incised channels cut through the unit. This bed contains an unusual plant fossil, Salvinia preauriculata. The list of plants remains found is quite long. The animals include fish, amphibians, reptiles (4 species of crocodile), and mammals, including five genera of insectivores, three primates, rodents, a pantodont, an allothere, Hyracotherium (the ancestor of the horse), and an artiodactyl. Freshwater mollusks, and two species of insects are also found. There are also tree-trunk molds, which means there was time for the trees to rot away before the next layer was deposited and filled the void left when decomposition occurred (Hickey, 1977, p. 68-72, 90-92,168)

The rest of the Tertiary consists of sediments like the Golden Valley, followed by a gravel bed and topped by glacial deposits (tills).

Putting it all together for North Dakota.

The W. H. Hunt Trust Estate Larson #1 well in Section 10 Township 148 N Range 101 W was drilled to 15,064 feet deep. This well was drilled just west of the outcrop of the Golden Valley Formation and begins in the Tertiary Fort Union Formation. The surface formation is the Ft. Union formation. The first designation of a formation by the wellsite geologist was the Greenhorn formation. But, I have picked the members above that level from my personal examination of the logs from the known lithologies of the said formations. Those picks will have an “~” in front of the depth The various horizons described above were encountered at the following depths (Fm=Formation; Grp=Group; Lm=Limestone):

Tertiary Ft. Union Fm ..........................100 feet
Hells Creek Fm................................~2250 feet
Fox Hills.....................................~3060 feet
Pierre Shale..................................~3200 feet
Niobrara Chalk................................~4400 feet
Carlile Shale.................................~4750 feet
Cretaceous Greenhorn Fm .......................4910 feet
Belle Fourche Shale............................5000 feet
Cretaceous Mowry Fm........................... 5370 feet
Cretaceous Inyan Kara Fm.......................5790 feet
Jurassic Rierdon Fm............................6690 feet
Piper Formation................................7110 feet
Triassic Spearfish Fm..........................7325 feet
Permian Opeche Fm..............................7740 feet
Pennsylvanian Amsden Fm........................7990 feet
Pennsylvanian Tyler Fm.........................8245 feet
Mississippian Otter Fm.........................8440 feet
Mississippian Kibbey Lm........................8780 feet
Mississippian Charles Fm.......................8945 feet
Mississippian Mission Canyon Fm................9775 feet
Mississippian Lodgepole Fm....................10255 feet
Devonian Bakken Fm............................11085 feet
Devonian Three Forks Shale....................11180 feet
Devonian Birdbear Fm..........................11340 feet
Devonian Duperow Fm...........................11422 feet
Devonian Souris River Fm......................11832 feet
Devonian Dawson Bay Fm........................12089 feet
Devonian Prairie Fm...........................12180 feet
Devonian Winnipegosis Grp.....................12310 feet
Silurian Interlake Fm.........................12539 feet
Ordovician Stonewall Fm.......................13250 feet
Ordovician Red River Dolomite.................13630 feet
Ordovician Winnipeg Grp.......................14210 feet
Ordovician Black Island Fm (part of Winnipeg).14355 feet
Cambrian Deadwood Fm..........................14445 feet
Precambrian...................................14945 feet

Putting this all in a table with the sedimentological traits (thanks to Ken Van Dellen), it looks like this


Lithology and Stratigraphy

Sedimentary Structures









Golden Valley Fm.


Fort Union Fm.

river channels

tree trunks earliest primate fossils


Hell Creek Fm.

sands and shales

contains the famous iridium anomaly from the meteor impact that killed the dinosaurs

meandering channels

highest dinosaurs found here

above the iridium anomaly angiosperm pollen virtually disappears and there is 1000 fern spores for every angiosperm pollen. How would a global flood do this?


Fox Hills Fm.

sand shale coal limestone

erosional channels

root casts burrows



Pierre Sh.

2 volcanic ash beds

lots of animal fecal pellets


Niobrara Chalk


tiny coccoliths which very slowly fall to the ocean floor



Carlile Sh.


erosional channels

burrows, feeding markings


Greenhorn Ls.


16 hard ledge-forming burrowed limestones over the 40 feet thickness, each below a volcanic ash bed

burrows, fecal pellets, feeding tracks and trails.



Belle Fourche Sh.

volcanic ash at base


Dakota Grp.

ripple marks

burrows, animal trails borings


Morrison Fm.

Sandstone and shale, some coal

Dinosaur bones and tracks, non-modern mammals and plants


Swift Fm.


Belemnites, oysters, pelecypods


Rierdon Fm.

Limestone, gypsum,

Anhydrite, salt

Pelecypods, ostracods, foraminifera

Alternately shallow marine and marginal marine


Piper Fm.

Redbeds & gypsum



Redbeds & gypsum

Dunham Salt

Strongly suggests continental


Spearfish Fm.

Salt, gypsum; red shale, sandstone, conglomerate

Strongly suggests arid


Minnekahta Ls.


hypersaline waters


Opeche Sh.

Shale, salt

Permian pollen


Minnelusa Fm.





Dessication cracks


Arid environment


Big Snowy Grp.

Dessication cracks

intertidal channels



Madison Grp.





Bakken Fm.

Organic-rich shale


Three Forks Sh.



Birdbear Fm.

Dessication cracks, caliche


Arid terrestrial


Duperow Fm.

Carbonate, anhydrite

Salt-plugged burrows, stromatolites


Dawson Bay Fm.


Eroded bedding planes

Salt-plugged burrows


Prairie Evaporite

Dolomite, salt, gypsum, anhydrite, potash



Winnepegosis Fm.


Bioclastic limestone




Interlake Fm.

Carbonate, anhydrite, salt, minor sand


Bighorn Dolomite

Burrows at all levels; graptolites, gastropods, cephalopods, corals





Black shale


Winnipeg Fm.



Deadwood Fm.




Scolithus (in sand)





What does all this mean? First, as I have noted before, the concept quite prevalent among some Christians, that the geologic column does not exist, is quite wrong. Morris and Parker (Morris and Parker, 1987, p. 163) write:

“Now, the geologic column is an idea, not an actual series of rock layers. Nowhere do we find the complete sequence.”

They are wrong. You just saw the whole column piled up in one place where one oil well can drill through it. Not only that, the entire geologic column is found in 31 other basins around the world, piled up in proper order. These basins are:

  1. The Ghadames Basin in Libya
  2. The Beni Mellal Basin in Morocco
  3. The Essaouira Basin in Morocco(Broughton and Trepanier, 1993)
  4. The Tunisian Basin in Tunisia
  5. The Oman Interior Basin in Oman
  6. The Western Desert Basin in Egypt
  7. The Adana Basin in Turkey
  8. The Iskenderun Basin in Turkey
  9. The Moesian Platform in Bulgaria
  10. The Carpathian Basin in Poland
  11. The Baltic Basin in the USSR
  12. The Yeniseiy-Khatanga Basin in the USSR
  13. The Farah Basin in Afghanistan
  14. The Helmand Basin in Afghanistan
  15. The Yazd-Kerman-Tabas Basin in Iran
  16. The Manhai-Subei Basin in China
  17. The Jiuxi Basin China
  18. The Tung t'in - Yuan Shui Basin China
  19. The Tarim Basin China
  20. The Szechwan Basin China
  21. The Yukon-Porcupine Province Alaska
  22. The Williston Basin in North Dakota (Haimla et al, 1990, p. 517)
  23. The Tampico Embayment Mexico
  24. The Bogata Basin Colombia
  25. The Bonaparte Basin, Australia (above this basin sources are Roberston Group, 1989)
  26. The Beaufort Sea Basin/McKenzie River Delta(Trendall 1990)
  27. The Parana Basin North, Paraguay and Brazil( (Wiens, 1995, p. 192)
  28. The Cape Karroo Basin (Tankard, 1995, p. 21)
  29. The Argentina Precordillera Basin (Franca et al, 1995, p. 136)
  30. The Chilean Antofagosta Basin (Franca et al, 1995, p. 134)
  31. The Pricaspian Basin (Volozh et al, 2003)

(JPG Courtesy of Thomas Moore)

I would also like to point out that the majority of the provinces of China also have the entire geologic column. Not every place in these provinces has the entire geologic column, but within each listed province there are areas that do have the entire geologic column. The data is from: Ma Lifang, editor, The Geological Atlas of China, Translated by Liu Nailong, (Beijing: Geological Publishing House, 2002).

  • Inner Mongolia
  • Ejin region
  • Jilin Province
  • Heilongjiang province
  • XiaoHingong Mtns
  • Jiangsu province
  • Zhejiang province
  • Anhui province
  • Hubei province
  • Hunan province
  • Guangdong province
  • Guangxi province
  • Guizhou province
  • Xizang province
  • Lhasa district
  • Ningxia Hui province
  • Shaanxi province
  • Gansu Province
  • Qinghai province
  • Xinjiang province
  • Liaoning province
  • Sichuan province
  • Jiangxi province

Here is what it looks like on a map:

Second, the existence of desert deposits is quite hard to place in the context of a global flood. Morris and Morris (1989, p. 37) write:

“If real desert-formed features do exist in the deeper geologic deposits, this could indeed be a problem for the Biblical model since the antediluvian environment was said by God to be all 'very good' and the future promised restoration of these to good conditions to the earth includes desert reclamation (e.g. Isaiah 35).”

The early oceanic sediments are covered by desert deposits of the Prairie Evaporite, Interlake, and Minnelusa Formations. Oncolites found in the Interlake prove that these deposits took some time to be deposited. There are 11 separate salt beds scattered through four ages: 2 Jurassic salt beds, 1 Permian salt bed, 7 Mississippian salt beds, and one thick Devonian salt. Half of these salt beds are up to 200 feet thick. The top Mississippian salt is 96% pure sodium chloride! Since they are sandwiched between other sediments, to explain them on the basis of a global, one-year flood requires a mechanism by which less-than-saturated sea water can dump its salt. If the sea were super-saturated during the flood, then no fish would have survived.

Third, the geologic column is not divided by hydrodynamic sorting. Whitcomb and Morris (1961, p. 276) states:

“In general, though, as a statistical average, beds would tend to be deposited in just the order that has been ascribed to them in terms of the standard geologic column. That is on top of the beds of marine vertebrates would be found amphibians, then reptiles and finally birds and mammals. This is in the order: (1) of increasing mobility and therefore increasing ability to postpone inundation; (2) of decreasing density and other hydrodynamic factors tending to promote earlier and deeper sedimentation, and (3) of increasing elevation of habitat and therefore time required for the Flood to attain stages sufficient to overtake them.”

The biggest single factor for how fast an object settles in a fluid is the size. The relevant physical law is Stoke's Law. The larger an object, the faster it falls. A cat can survive a fall from a 20-story building because it falls at a speed of “only” 60 mph. A human dies because he reaches a terminal velocity of 120 mph if laid out like a skydiver, 180 if he falls feet first. Thus, for any given habitat, the largest animals should be on the bottom. There are a lot of very small dinosaurs found in the Morrison Formation, with the giants, both of which are below the Niobrara, which contains the 20-foot long fish and micrometer-sized chalk particles. Large, teleost fish are found well above the layers in which fish are first found.

Fourth, the geologic column is not sorted by ecological zones. The Silurian Interlake, Devonian Prairie, Pennsylvanian Minnelusa, and Jurassic Morrison Formations are continental deposits. Oceanic deposits sandwich these beds. The ocean came and went many times.

Fifth, the persistent burrowing that is found throughout the geologic column, the erosional layers, and the evaporative salt require much more time than a single year to account for the whole column. Here is how I know the Williston Basin sediments couldn't be deposited in a single year. If you divide the 15,000 feet of sedimentary rock in the Williston by 365 days, you get 41 feet per day. Assuming that a burrow is only 1 foot long and that the creature could not survive the burial by an additional foot of sediment, the creature doing the burrowing must accomplish his work in less than 40 minutes. That doesn't sound all that bad, until it is realized that if the poor critter ever stops to rest, even for a half an hour, he will be buried too deeply to escape.

The pure coccolith chalks of the Niobrara and the bentonite deposits also require a lot of time. A chalk particle, 2 microns in radius, takes about 80 days to fall through only 300 feet of very still water. The 200 feet of the Niobrara Chalk would have to be deposited in 4 days if the column was the result of a 1-year flood. The detection of long-period cyclicities in the Niobrara that match those of the earth's long-term orbital periodicities must cause one to pause and think about the concept that the geologic column is due to a single cataclysm. Some of the smaller volcanic ash particles in the bentonites could take even longer to fall through 300 feet of water than the coccoliths.

Sixth, the fact that the living mammals are not found with the earliest dinosaurs, or that no primates are found until the Ft. Union Formation, or that no full dinosaur skeletons are found in the Tertiary section, implies strongly that the column was not the result of a single cataclysm. Worldwide, no whales are found with the large Devonian fish. If the column was an ecological burial pattern, then whales and porpoises should be buried with the fish. They aren't. The order of the fossils must be explained either by progressive creation or evolution.

Seventh, until Christian catastrophists can explain the facts of the geologic column, they need to tone down their rhetoric against the geologists and other scientists. Paul Steidl (Steidl, 1979, p. 94) wrote:

“The entire scientific community has accepted the great age of the universe; indeed, it has built all its science upon that supposition. They will not give it up without a fight. In fact, they will never give it up, even if it means compromising their reason or even their professional integrity, for to admit creation is to admit the existence of the God of the Bible.”

One friend pointed out that Steidl misses the point that it isn't as if geologist assume an age of the earth in order to disprove God. He and I, both geoscientists, believe in God.

Geology, like any science, is not immune from criticism, but Christians who criticize geology should do so only after a thorough understanding of the data, not, as is usually the case, before such an understanding is gained. They should also be willing to advance explanations for explaining the details observed.

Eighth, those who would decry the use of uniformitarianism in the interpretation of the fossil record need to show how uniformitarian methodology is inappropriate when one looks at the persistent burrowing, the orbital cyclicities, the abundant erosional surfaces, and footprints. They also need to show why the laws of physics (Stokes law) does not apply to the deposition of 2-micron chalk particles, and demonstrate what laws do apply in order to explain the supposed rapid sedimentation of these beds.

Ninth, and finally, the data show that there are no strata that can be identified as the flood strata and there is no way to have the whole column deposited in a single year, in view of the features found in it. Thus, if we are to believe in a Flood, it must have been local in extent.


Woodmorappe criticizes this work for using the Robertson's Group Book. He writes:

“But where does Morton get his information? He cites as his source the work of the Robertson Group, a London-based oil-consulting company. I have been unable to secure a copy of this work, as it is not listed in either WorldCat or GEOREF. Thus I cannot comment on the accuracy of this source of information, nor discern whether or not its portrayal of sedimentary basins is overly schematic. Evidently, Morton is citing a proprietary source not subject to public scrutiny.”

This book is not proprietary. It is for sale. They would be delighted to sell Woodmorappe a copy. It is a work that most oil companies use in international exploration. So I would say to Woodmorappe, find a friend in an oil company and get that friend to show you the book. Secondly, the data they present comes from the public domain, so a determined researcher can retrace what Robertson has compiled.

I want to add one more thing to my response to this criticism. If you really want to find the experts in geology (especially in the areas in which oil and gas is found) you MUST go to the oil industry. We spend millions of dollars a year gathering data. While my source, the Stratigraphic Database of Major Sedimentary Basins of the World, is the work of a worldwide consulting group, it is, therefore the best thing that is available anywhere on the entire geologic column. I don't think there is anything in the public domain literature like it. And I might add that I have seen professors do the same things with their work — sell it to industry through consortiums. Such data are never published in the refereed journals — it is too valuable. However, in the above I have provided widely available sources for the Bonaparte Basin in Australia and the Beaufort Sea basin, as well as the publicly available well log in North Dakota. If Woodmorappe really wants to see at least these six data points, he can easily access them.


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