One of the most important challenges facing the fluvial sedimentologist is identification of processes outside the stream channel that influence deposition of fluvial sediments. Detailed studies in the lower sequence of the Salt Wash Member (Morrison Formation, Upper Jurassic) demonstrate that crustal deformation at the site of deposition may considerably influence braided-stream processes. Late Jurassic crustal movements in the western part of the Colorado Plateau are interpreted largely from thickness variations and facies distribution, but other features such as vertical repetition of facies, coincidence with at least parts of present-day folds, and the geographic distribution of bedding parameters measured in the fluvial deposits, are also used as corroborating evidence of syndepositional tectonism. These features indicate that several of the large uplifts and basins in the region as well as some of the smaller folds within them were actively moving during deposition of the lower sequence. Tectonic activity altered the stream gradients, which in turn governed sinuosity, flow regime, energy levels, and sediment distribution. Cross-bedding studies indicate that reduced gradients within downwarped areas led to slight increases in sinuosity of the braided-stream channels and of the small sub-channels within them. The lowered gradients apparently resulted in a decrease in the depth of the channels and allowed the streams to flood more readily, producing abundant upper-flow regime horizontal laminations in the channel deposits. In addition, greater quantities of sediment containing higher proportions of sand were deposited in downwarped areas than in positive localities. The inability of the streams to transport bed load through downwarped areas indicates loss of stream energy. However, an increase in the quantity of upper-flow regime horizontal laminations in the same downwarped areas suggests that an increase in flow regime is not necessarily accompanied by an increase in energy levels, at least in regions of slight tectonic activity where the local configuration of the stream channels may change appreciably. Strata presently dip less than 2?? throughout most of the region, and this relatively small amount of deformation reflects the combined effects of Late Jurassic, Cretaceous and Tertiary tectonism. This demonstrates that the amount of structural deformation at the site of deposition may appear to be insignificant, yet it can cause appreciable changes in the nature of braided-stream deposits. ?? 1984.
Additional publication details
Fluvial sedimentation on a quivering craton: Influence of slight crustal movements on fluvial processes, upper Jurassic Morrison formation, western Colorado plateau