The structural framework and evolution from the Middle Jurassic to the present of the Mississippi Canyon, Atwater Valley, western DeSoto Canyon, and western Lloyd Ridge protraction areas consist of a complex history influenced by basement fabric, multiple stages of salt movement, and gravitational gliding. A detailed tectono-stratigraphic interpretation of the study area indicates that three main stages of salt movement controlled sediment dispersal patterns and the formation and evolution of intraslope minibasins. These three stages of salt movement occurred during the Cretaceous, the Paleogene, and the Neogene.
Basement structures were the primary control on initial salt kinematics, affecting gravity-driven slope deformation and resulting in a wide variety of structural styles. Basement (acoustic basement) structures (horsts, grabens, and half grabens) formed prior to the deposition of the Middle Jurassic autochthonous Louann Salt. These features are interpreted to have controlled the original thickness of the autochthonous salt layer and subsequent salt-withdrawal patterns. Mesozoic structures, such as extensional-compressional gliding systems and expulsion rollovers, formed above the autochthonous salt.
Three levels of allochthonous salt systems are identified: (1) approximate top Barremian, (2) top Cretaceous, and (3) intra-Neogene (between 10 and 4 Ma). Early emplacement of two allochthonous salt layers is present in the northeastern part of the study area, whereas the Neogene allochthonous salt system extends throughout the Mississippi Canyon, western DeSoto Canyon, and northern Atwater Valley protraction areas. Salt from the autochthonous and two deep allochthonous salt layers was expelled vertically and basinward during the Neogene, feeding the younger allochthonous salt systems. The autochthonous and deep allochthonous salt layers were detachments for many of the large Neogene extensional (growth faults and turtles) and contractional (anticlines and thrust faults) structures, whereas the Neogene allochthonous salt system accommodated suprasalt minibasins associated with counterregional and roho salt systems. These three allochthonous salt layers were successively loaded by gravity-flow sediments, resulting in deep (above autochthonous or deep allochthonous salt layers) and shallow (supra-Neogene allochthonous salt) minibasin formations and local development of extensive salt welds. Northwest–southeast-oriented strike-slip structures, active during the Neogene, are present in the salt province within the study area. They are related to basinwide heterogeneities in the salt distribution and are controlled by differential basinward movement of adjacent suprasalt minibasins.