Variations in fluvial style in the Westwater Canyon Member, Morrison formation (Jurassic), San Juan basin, Colorado plateau

Sedimentary Geology



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Techniques of architectural element analysis and lateral profiling have been applied to the fluvial Westwater Canyon Member of the Morrison Formation (Jurassic) in southern San Juan Basin. On a large scale, the sandstone-body architecture consists mainly of a series of tabular sandstone sheets 5-15 m thick and hundreds of meters wide, separated by thin fine-grained units. Internally these sheets contain lateral accretion surfaces and are cut by channels 10-20 m deep and at least 250 m wide. On a more detailed scale, interpretations made from large-scale photomosaics show a complex of architectural elements and bounding surfaces. Typical indicators of moderate- to high-sinuosity channels (lateral accretion deposits) coexist in the same outcrop with downstream-accreted macroform deposits that are typical of sand flats of low-sinuosity, multiple-channel rivers. Broad, deep channels with gently to steeply dipping margins were mapped in several of the outcrops by carefully tracing major bounding surfaces. Locally thick accumulations of plane-laminated and low-angle cross-laminated sandstone lithofacies suggest rapid flow, probably transitional to upper flow regime conditions. Such a depositional style is most typical of ephemeral rivers or those periodically undergoing major seasonal (or more erratic) stage fluctuations, an interpretation consistent with independent mineralogical evidence of aridity. Fining-upward sequences are rare in the project area, contrary to the descriptions of Campbell (1976). The humid alluvial fan model of Galloway (1978) cannot be substantiated and, similarly, the architectural model of Campbell (1976) requires major revision. Comparisons with the depositional architecture of the large Indian rivers, such as the Ganges and Brahmaputra, still seem reasonable, as originally proposed by Campbell (1976), although there is now convincing evidence for aridity and for major stage fluctuations, which differs both from those modern rivers and Campbell's interpretation. ?? 1989.

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Variations in fluvial style in the Westwater Canyon Member, Morrison formation (Jurassic), San Juan basin, Colorado plateau
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Sedimentary Geology
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Sedimentary Geology
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