The uppermost Cretaceous-lower Tertiary Sphinx Conglomerate crops out over an area of approximately 20 km2 (8 mi2) in the Madison Range of southwestern Montana. The Sphinx consists of more than 1,000 m (3,300 ft) of synorogenic boulder and cobble conglomerate derived from a Late Cretaceous Laramide uplift that was located in the area presently occupied by the Madison River valley. Palynological and radiometric age data indicate that the Sphinx was deposited 75-58 Ma, and that thrusting and folding of the deposit had largely ceased by 56 Ma. Compositions of Sphinx clasts and paleocurrent data indicate that the Sphinx was produced by uplift and unroofing of Mesozoic and Paleozoic rocks located on two thrust sheets to the west and southwest. The lower Sphinx was deposited on the distal portions of an eastward prograding alluvial-fan system. Clast assemblages and lithofacies indicate that deposition of the middle Sphinx was controlled by a combination of progradation in response to ongoing thrusting and an influx of resistant clasts derived from middle Paleozoic carbonates in the source area. Deposition of the upper Sphinx was probably controlled by source lithology, as the influx of very coarse, resistant clasts from middle and lower Paleozoic carbonates overwhelmed the fan system’s ability to organize its load of sediment by normal fan processes. A preliminary facies model for thrust-generated alluvial-fan deposits predicts intraformational deformation, cannibalization of proximal synorogenic fan facies, and abrupt compositional breaks in response to episodes of thrusting.

First Page Preview

First page PDF preview
You do not have access to this content, please speak to your institutional administrator if you feel you should have access.