Sedimentological and geochemical studies of the Upper Cretaceous Hartland Shale and overlying Bridge Creek Limestone Members of the Greenhorn Formation reveal close associations between abundance of current-induced sedimentary structures, extent of bioturbation, and type of preserved organic matter. Abundant hydrogen-rich organic matter (4-5 wt. %) and low sulfur to organic carbon ratios are characteristic of the laminated facies, which lack current-induced sedimentary structures. Sparse hydrogen-poor organic matter (0.1-0.5 wt. %) and relatively high sulfur to organic carbon ratios are characteristic of the bioturbated facies, which contain numerous sedimentary structures indicative of currents. The concentration of oxygen in the benthic environment and the degree of bioturbation of the sediment apparently were determined principally by the rate that oxygen was supplied advectively (by currents) rather than by the rate of oxygen consumption (by decomposition). Thus, paleoclimatic and paleo-oceanographic factors that influenced mixing and current strength in the water column profoundly affected the amount and type of organic matter preserved in these units. It is proposed that episodes of high river discharge lead to density stratification of the water column and in turn to quiescent oxygen-depleted bottom water and high preservation of organic matter, thus accounting for the intermittent widespread deposition of organic-rich strata during maximum transgression and depth of the Greenhorn sea. The lateral association of voluminous deltaic deposits with deep-water black shales in other elongate or restricted marine basins may have causes similar to those envisioned for the Hartland Shale and Bridge Creek Limestone Members.

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