The headwaters region of the Cullasaja River is underlain by metasedimentary and meta-igneous rocks of the Neoproterozoic Ashe Metamorphic Suite, including gneiss, schist, and amphibolite, that were intruded during Ordovician time by elongate bodies of trondhjemite, a felsic plutonic rock. Deformation, metamorphism, and intrusion occurred roughly simultaneously during the Taconic orogeny, about 470 million years ago, under upper-amphibolite-facies metamorphic conditions. Two generations of foliation and three major phases of folds are recognized. The second- and third-generation folds trend northeast and exert the most control on regional foliation trends. Since the orogeny, the region has undergone uplift, fracturing, and erosion. Resistance to erosion by the plutonic rock may be the primary reason for the relatively gentle relief of the high-elevation basin, compared to surrounding areas. Amphibolite is the most highly fractured lithology, followed by trondhjemite; the latter may have the best ground-water potential of the mapped lithologies by virtue of its high fracture density and high proportion of subhorizontal fractures.