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Swaledale Geology  Pages © John Russell
SWAAG Honorary President:
Tim Laurie FSA
Ripple Marks
Location: How Edge Scars. BNG: NY 867 026
  a. Symmetrical ripple marks that have the same slope on either side of the crest.
b. Flattened ripple crests
c1. Limestone boulder
c2. Sandstone boulder
d. Fissile sandstone – Mica rich.
e. Direction of river flow – not related to the ripple marks.
The photo shows ripple marks in medium-grained deltaic sandstone of Namurian age. Travel up any of the river beds onto the Millstone grit and these features are common in the sandstones. They provide geologists with useful information about palate-environments. Ripple marks are found in many environments e.g. tidal flats, beaches, lakes, seas and rivers. The water depth can vary from very shallow down to a depth of 200m. There are many factors that control the size of the ripples. The three most common are the coarseness of the grain, the water depth and the intensity of the waves.

The ripple marks can provide information about the water that created them. There are two main groups of water ripple marks shown in the diagram below.

The photograph shows a symmetrical wave pattern (a) which indicates a marine environment. It is like the first diagram with the crests removed. This reflects a higher energy deposition. The second diagram shows an asymmetrical wave pattern formed in a river. The steeper slope of the wave points downstream. Ripple marks can also be useful in working out the way up of a rock sequence.

The river in the photo shows a river bed with a number of water worn boulders. This rounded appearance is due to three elements of erosion, attrition, corrosion and solution. These boulders are part of the bedload of the river that is being carried to the sea and deposited. The angular boulder (c1) is a very hard limestone which shows smooth, water worn surfaces. The boulder marked (c2) is of softer sandstone. It’s almost spherical form is a result of corrosion and attrition as it collides with other boulders and the river bed.