The Blackhawk Formation at Sunnyside, Utah, was deposited along the western margin of the Western Interior Cretaceous sea during southeastward withdrawal of the sea. Sand was the dominant type of land-derived sediment deposited in the Sunnyside district during the regressive phases. Sand bodies prograded seaward in response to changing sediment supply from a source west of Sunnyside. Where conditions were favorable for the accumulation of vegetable material, peat deposits formed and were later changed to bituminous Coal by diagenesis. Studies of the coal bed show that the coals were formed from accumulation of small, low-growing plants and plant debris that was transported into the area of accumulation. Remains of large plants in the coals are rare.
Trace fossils, which are tracks, trails and burrows formed by organisms and preserved in the rock, are extremely abundant in the Blackhawk rocks. These biogenic sedimentary structures are common in Cretaceous deposits throughout the western United States. Trace fossil distribution in the rocks is controlled by the depositional environment preferred by their creators. A study of the trace fossils of a. locality allows a more precise determination of the conditions during deposition of the sediments. Water depth, bottom conditions, salinity, current velocity and amount of suspended nutrients in the water are some of the environmental factors that may be reconstructed by studying trace fossils.
The Blackhawk Formation at Sunnyside comprises the members, the Kenilworth Member and the Sunnyside Member. Field studies show that the formation may be further subdivided in the Sunnyside district., according to the precepts of units of mappable thickness and similar lithologic characteristics. The Blackhawk pinches out eastward and north. ward into the Mancos Shale, and names for submembers become meaningless. Names are of value in the region of interest, however, because of the prominence of the named units.
Coal mining is the main industry of the Book Cliffs region. Mines of the Sunnyside district are plagued by coal mine bumps, which are sudden, catastrophic releases of stress in the coal. Bumps cause loss of life, property age, and loss of profit to mining companies. Bumps occur when shear stress built up in the coal exceeds the shear Strength of the coal. Differential overburden pressure, faulting and tectonic activity, and lithology and structure of roof rocks are factors which influence bumps. Petroleum and natural gas (methane), which occur locally in pockets in the roof rocks above coal beds, may be diagenetic products of organic-rich sediments.
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USGS Numbered Series
Sedimentary features of the Blackhawk formation (Cretaceous) at Sunnyside, Carbon County, Utah