Depositional environments and processes in Upper Cretaceous nonmarine and marine sediments, Ocean Point dinosaur locality, North Slope, Alaska

Cretaceous Research



A 178-m-thick stratigraphic section exposed along the lower Colville River in northern Alaska, near Ocean Point, represents the uppermost part of a 1500 m Upper Cretaceous stratigraphic section. Strata exposed at Ocean Point are assigned to the Prince Creek and Schrader Bluff formations. Three major depositional environments are identified consisting, in ascending order, of floodplain, interdistributary-bay, and shallow-marine shelf. Nonmarine strata, comprising the lower 140 m of this section, consist of fluvial distributaries, overbank sediments, tephra beds, organic-rich beds, and vertebrate remains. Tephras yield isotopic ages between 68 and 72.9 Ma, generally consistent with paleontologic ages of late Campanian-Maastrichtian determined from dinosaur remains, pollen, foraminifers, and ostracodes. Meandering low-energy rivers on a low-gradient, low-relief floodplain carried a suspended-sediment load. The rivers formed multistoried channel deposits (channels to 10 m deep) as well as solitary channel deposits (channels 2-5 m deep). Extensive overbank deposits resulting from episodic flooding formed fining-upward strata on the floodplain. The fining-upward strata are interbedded with tephra and beds of organic-rich sediment. Vertical-accretion deposits containing abundant roots indicate a sheet flood origin for many beds. Vertebrate and nonmarine invertebrate fossils along with plant debris were locally concentrated in the floodplain sediment. Deciduous conifers as well as abundant wetland plants, such as ferns, horsetails, and mosses, covered the coastal plain. Dinosaur skeletal remains have been found concentrated in floodplain sediments in organic-rich bone beds and as isolated bones in fluvial channel deposits in at least nine separate horizons within a 100-m-thick interval. Arenaceous foraminifers in some organic-rich beds and shallow fluvial distributaries indicate a lower coastal plain environment with marginal marine (bay) influence. Marginal marine strata representing interdistributary bay deposits overlie the nonmarine beds and comprise about 15 m of section. Extensive vegetated sand flats, shoals, and shallow channels overlain by shallow bay deposits (less than 7 m deep), containing storm-generated strata characterize the marginal marine beds. Abundant bioturbation and roots characterize the stratigraphic lowest bay deposits; bioturbated sediment, pelecypods, barnacles, and benthic microfossils are found in the overlying bay storm deposits. The sediments abruptly change upward from hummocky cross-stratified bay deposits to a muddy marsh deposit containing shallow organic-rich channels to prograding nonmarine to marginal marine beds. Transgressive, abundantly fossiliferous shallow-marine strata more than 13 m thick comprise the uppermost exposures at Ocean Point. The marine beds overlie nonmarine and bay strata and represent an environment dominated episodically by storms. The age of the marginal marine and marine beds is late Maastrichtian based on pollen. ?? 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Depositional environments and processes in Upper Cretaceous nonmarine and marine sediments, Ocean Point dinosaur locality, North Slope, Alaska
Series title Cretaceous Research
DOI 10.1016/S0195-6671(03)00068-5
Volume 24
Issue 5
Year Published 2003
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Cretaceous Research
First page 499
Last page 523