Source-to-sink analyses show that northern Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Wilcox Group siliciclastic deep-water systems are linked to transport of sediments from the Laramide tectonic belt into the deep basin. Less is known, however, about southern GOM sedimentation. New drilling and discoveries in the Mexican deep water have generated considerable interest since the opening of Mexico to international exploration. To investigate Paleogene deposition in Mexico’s offshore areas, a three-phased approach was employed: (1) seismic mapping of deep-water depocenters, (2) regional stratigraphic analysis of potential basin entry points, and (3) prediction of submarine-fan dimensions using empirical scaling relationships. Isochore and structural mapping of the Wilcox depocenters used available well and seismic data. Potential basin entry points were identified by evaluation of Wilcox fluvial–deltaic systems and tectonic elements. Empirical scaling relationships previously established between fluvial and deep-water segments provide first-order predictions of submarine-fan dimensions.
Paleogene Wilcox source-to-sink systems of the greater GOM basin change north to south as a function of varied tectonics and sedimentary accommodation. The United States sector was a passive margin: continental-scale drainage systems fed a broad, gently dipping shelf. By contrast, the southern GOM basin was a tectonically active margin: smaller-scale fluvial systems sourced from the Hidalgoan uplands flowed directly into foreland basins located on the slope. Results presented here indicate that several systems rimming the southern GOM were able to effectively transfer sediment from the mountain belt into the basin. Regional observations and semiquantitative predictions of fan dimensions provide a context for future detailed work based on new well and seismic information.