The geomorphology of the Mississippi River chenier plain

Marine Geology



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The chenier plain of the Mississippi River is a shore-parallel zone of alternating transgressive clastic ridges separated by progradational mudflats. The term chenier is derived from the cajun term chene for oak, the tree species that colonizes the crests of the higher ridges. The Mississippi River chenier plain stretches 200 km from Sabine Pass, Texas, to Southwest Point, Louisiana and ranges between 20 and 30 km wide, with elevations of 2-6 m. The timing and the process of formation could be re-evaluated in the light of new chronostratigraphic findings in the Mississippi River delta plain. The stratigraphic relationship between the Teche and Lafourche delta complexes and Ship Shoal offshore indicates that these delta complexes belong to different delta plains that developed at different sealevels. It appears that the Teche delta complex is associated with the late Holocene delta plain which developed 7000 to 3000 yrs B.P. when sealevel stood 5-6 m lower than present. A regional transgression occurred between approximately 3000 BP and 2500 yrs B.P., leading to the transgressive submergence of the late Holocene delta plain, producing the regional Teche shoreline. The timing of this transgression conforms to the age of the most landward ridge in the chenier plain, the Little Chenier-Little Pecan Island trend, which dates at about 2500 yrs B.P. This ridge trend was originally interpreted as representing the Teche delta complex switching event with the landward Holocene/Pleistocene contact representing the high stand shoreline. The implication of this new interpretation is that the Little Chenier-Little Pecan Island trend represents the high stand shoreline, a continuation of the Teche shoreline separating the late Holocene and Recent delta plains, and that the Holocene/Pleistocene contact represents the leading edge of the marshes transgressing onto the Prairie Terrace. Significant mudflat progradation seems to require a westerly position of the Mississippi River, but the numerous different forms and ages of cheniers do not correspond well to the timing of major delta complex switching. Progradation of the chenier plain appears to be associated with building of the Recent delta plain and not the Teche complex of the late Holocene delta plain. The occurrence of individual ridges appears to be primarily tied to delta lobe switching within the Lafourche complex and variations in sediment supply from local rivers. The recent development of the Atchafalaya delta complex to the west is the closest position of an active distributary to the chenier plain since sealevel stabilization; a new episode of rapid mudflat progradation is thus taking place. ?? 1989.

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The geomorphology of the Mississippi River chenier plain
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Marine Geology
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Larger Work Title:
Marine Geology