Facies associations, paleoenvironment, and base-level changes in the upper cretaceous Wahweap Formation, Utah, U.S.A.

Jinnah, Zubair A., and Roberts, Eric M. (2011) Facies associations, paleoenvironment, and base-level changes in the upper cretaceous Wahweap Formation, Utah, U.S.A. Journal of Sedimentary Research, 81 (4). pp. 266-283.

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Abstract

The Wahweap Formation is an ~ 400-m-thick succession of fluvial and estuarine channel sandstones and floodbasin mudstones divided into lower, middle, upper, and capping sandstone members. Facies analysis of the Wahweap Formation on the Kaiparowits Plateau reveals the presence of ten facies associations grouped into channel and floodbasin deposits. Facies associations (FAs) from channels include: (1) single-story and (2) multistory lenticular sandstone bodies, (3) major tabular sandstone bodies, (4) gravel bedforms, (5) low-angle heterolithic cross-strata, and (10) lenticular mudrock, whereas floodbasin facies associations include: (6) minor tabular sandstone bodies, (7) lenticular interlaminated sandstone and mudrock, (8) inclined interbedded sandstone and mudrock, and (9) laterally extensive mudrock.

The lower and middle members are dominated by floodbasin facies associations. The lower member consists dominantly of FA 8, interpreted as proximal floodbasin deposits including levees and pond margins, and is capped by a persistent horizon of FA 3, interpreted as amalgamated channel deposits. FAs 4 and 6 are also present in the lower member. The middle member consists dominantly of FA 9, interpreted as distal floodbasin deposits including swamp, oxbow-lake, and waterlogged-soil horizons. FAs 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10 are present in the middle member as well, which together are interpreted as evidence of suspended-load channels. The upper member is sandstone-dominated and consists of FAs 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, and 8. FAs 5 and 7, which occur at the base of the upper member, are interpreted as tidally influenced channels and suggest a marine incursion during deposition of the upper member. The capping sandstone is characterized by FAs 3, 4, and 6, and is interpreted to represent a major change in depositional environment, from meandering river systems in the lower three members to a low-accommodation, braided river system.

Improved age constraints on the Wahweap Formation indicate that the middle and upper members were deposited during the eustatic Claggett transgression (T8 of Kauffman 1977) in the adjacent Western Interior Seaway. Additionally, facies analysis of the Wahweap Formation has revealed an increase in both the sand:mud ratio and the degree of sandstone amalgamation from the upper part of the middle member to the base of the capping sandstone, suggesting a gradual reduction in generation of accommodation in the basin. Following recent alluvial sequence stratigraphic models, the middle member is interpreted as the isolated fluvial facies tract, while the upper member represents the tidally influenced and highstand facies tracts. Maximum transgression occurred during deposition of the lowest part of the upper member, synchronous with the putatively eustatic Claggett highstand in other parts of the Western Interior Basin. The sequence boundary is placed at the base of the overlying capping sandstone member, diagnosed by a major shift in petrography and paleocurrent direction, as well as up to 4 m of fluvial incision into the underlying upper member. The capping sandstone member is interpreted as the amalgamated fluvial facies tract, and the sequence boundary at the base of the capping sandstone is regarded as tectonically induced. Improved geochronology in the formation now permits high-resolution correlation with marine units to the east and along-strike correlation with contemporaneous alluvial units up and down the western margin of the Western Interior Basin.

Item ID: 18389
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
ISSN: 1938-3681
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2011 03:41
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040301 Basin Analysis @ 50%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040310 Sedimentology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 85 ENERGY > 8501 Energy Exploration > 850199 Energy Exploration not elsewhere classified @ 25%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences @ 75%
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