In eastern North America the Mesozoic rocks are much less important than the Paleozoic, for much of this portion of the continent was land during the Mesozoic era, and the area of the Mesozoic rocks is small. In western North America, on the other hand, the strata of the Mesozoic—and of the Cenozoic also—are widely spread. The Paleozoic rocks are buried quite generally from view except where the mountain makings and continental uplifts of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic have allowed profound erosion to bring them to light, as in deep canyons and about mountain axes. The record of many of the most important events in the development of the continent during the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras is found in the rocks of our western states.
THE TRIASSIC AND JURASSIC
Eastern north America. The sedimentary record interrupted by the Appalachian deformation was not renewed in eastern North America until late in the Triassic. Hence during this long interval the land stood high, the coast was farther out than now, and over our Atlantic states geological time was recorded chiefly in erosion forms of hill and plain which have long since vanished. The area of the later Triassic rocks of this region, which take up again the geological record, is seen in the map of Figure 260. They lie on the upturned and eroded edges of the older rocks and occupy long troughs running for the most part parallel to the Atlantic coast. Evidently subsidence was in progress where these rocks were deposited. The eastern border of Appalachia was now depressed. The oldland was warping, and long belts of country lying parallel to the shore subsided, forming troughs in which thousands of feet of sediment now gathered.
These Triassic rocks, which are chiefly sandstones, hold no marine fossils, and hence were not laid in open arms of the sea. But their layers are often ripple-marked, and contain many tracks of reptiles, imprints of raindrops, and some fossil wood, while an occasional bed of shale is filled with the remains of fishes. We may conceive, then, of the Connecticut valley and the larger trough to the southwest as basins gradually sinking at a rate perhaps no faster than that of the New Jersey coast to-day, and as gradually aggraded by streams from the neighboring uplands. Their broad, sandy flats were overflowed by wandering streams, and when subsidence gained on deposition shallow lakes overspread the alluvial plains. Perhaps now and then the basins became long, brackish estuaries, whose low shores were swept by the incoming tide and were in turn left bare at its retreat to receive the rain prints of passing showers and the tracks of the troops of reptiles which inhabited these valleys.