This report describes the mineral and chemical composition of immature, arkosic sandstones of the Pennsylvanian Minturn and Pennsylvanian and Permian Sangre de Cristo Formations, which were derived from the Ancestral Rocky Mountains. Located in the Sangre de Cristo Range of southern Colorado, the Minturn and Sangre de Cristo Formations contain some of the most immature, sodic arkoses shed from the Ancestral Rocky Mountains. The Minturn Formation was deposited as fan deltas in marine and alluvial environments; the Sangre de Cristo Formation was deposited as alluvial fans.
Arkoses of the Minturn and Sangre de Cristo Formations are matrix-rich and thus may be properly considered arkosic wackes in the terminology of Gilbert (Williams and others, 1954). In general, potassium feldspar and plagioclase are subequal in abundance. Arkose of the Sangre de Cristo Formation is consistently plagioclase-rich; arkose from the Minturn Formation is more variable. Quartz and feldspar grains are accompanied by a few percent rock fragments, consisting mostly of intermediate to granitic plutonic rocks, gneiss, and schist. All of the rock fragments seen in sandstone are present in interbedded conglomerate, consistent with derivation from a Precambrian terrane of gneiss and plutonic rocks much like that exposed in the present Sangre de Cristo Range.
Comparison of mineral and major oxide abundances reveals a strong association of detrital quartz with SiO2, all other detrital minerals (totaled) with Al2O3, potassium feldspar plus mica with K2O, and plagioclase with Na2O. Thus, major oxide content is a good predictor of detrital mineralogy, although contributions from matrix and cement make these relationships less than perfect.
Detrital minerals and major oxides tend to form inverse relationships that reflect mixtures of varying quantities of minerals; when one mineral is abundant, the abundance of others declines by dilution. In arkose of the Minturn and Sangre de Cristo Formations, the abundance of quartz (and SiO2) is enhanced by weathering and transport, which destroys feldspar and rock fragments. Weathering also preferentially destroys plagioclase (and removes Na2O) over potassium feldspar. Thus, as fresh sodic arkose detritus is weathered and transported in the fluvial environment, it becomes potassic and quartz-rich. Stratigraphic profiles of mineral and major oxide abundance reveal that weathering and transport, including reworking by marine currents, was most effective in reducing plagioclase and enhancing quartz content of arkosic sediment in the Minturn Formation near Marble Mountain. In general, the quartz-poor, sodic arkoses of the Sangre de Cristo Formation indicate little weathering in the source area or during transport.
Iron-titanium oxides and other heavy minerals, notably zircon and sphene, tend to be most abundant in the Sangre de Cristo Formation. Although concentrated locally as fluvial placers, the overall abundance of heavy minerals probably reflects lack of weathering and proximity to source.
The degree of weathering and destruction of unstable grains (feldspar and rock fragments) in the Minturn and Sangre de Cristo Formations of the Sangre de Cristo Range was dependent on rates of uplift and erosion as much as climate (wet versus dry). Reworking by marine currents further reduced the proportion of unstable grains during Minturn time. Sodic (plagioclase-rich), quartz-poor arkose in the coarse, conglomeratic Sangre de Cristo Formation is the product of rapid uplift and erosion.
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Petrology of arkosic sandstones, Pennsylvanian Minturn Formation and Pennsylvanian and Permian Sangre de Cristo Formation, Sangre de Cristo Range, Colorado - data and preliminary interpretations