Cretaceous low-accommodation deposits have been extensively studied in the subsurface of the Western Interior of North America because of their prolific hydrocarbon production and remaining potential. Understanding the stratigraphic complexities of these deposits in the subsurface relies strongly on detailed outcrop analogs. In this study, the Dakota Sandstone was examined along 100 km (62 mi) of semicontinuous outcrop between the towns of Hanksville and Ticaboo in the Henry Mountains of southeastern Utah. This region represented a low-accommodation setting located over the forebulge of the Cretaceous Western Interior Basin during accumulation of the unit. The Dakota Sandstone is 0 to 38 m (125 ft) thick, of Cenomanian age, and records multiple cycles of sediment accumulation. The Dakota Sandstone is subdivided into two condensed top-truncated stratigraphic sequences, the upper of which contains two parasequences. The basal parts of both sequences are composed of braided fluvial conglomerates and sandstone overlain by tidally influenced fluvial sandstone, inclined heterolithically stratified estuarine mudstone, carbonaceous shale, and coal. The overlying parasequences consist of coarsening-upward lower to upper shoreface mudstone, sandstone, tidal inlet deposits, and oyster shell concentrations. These facies define tripartite subdivisions of depositional environments typical of wave-dominated estuaries. The fluvial deposits may represent lowstand deposits, but overall sediments accumulated during transgressive systems tracts (TST). The parasequences recorded in the Henry Mountains are similar to the Dakota Sandstone of northwestern New Mexico and to high-frequency sequences identified in the Kaiparowits Plateau, approximately 80 km (∼50 mi) to the southwest, which suggests eustatic driving mechanisms.
The best potential for hydrocarbon reservoirs occurs in fluvial sandstones and conglomerates.