Alluvial fans, commonly are thick, oxidized, orogenic deposits whose geometry is influenced by the rate and duration of uplift of the adjacent mountains and by climatic factors.
Fans consist of water-laid sediments, debris-flow deposits, or both. Water-laid sediments occur as channel, sheetflood, or sieve deposits. Entrenched stream channels commonly are backfilled with gravel that may be imbricated, massive, or thick bedded. Braided sheets of finer-grained sediments deposited downslope from the channel may be cross-bedded, massive, laminated, or thick bedded. Sieve deposits are overlapping lobes of permeable gravel.
Debris-flow deposits generally consist of cobbles and boulders in a poorly sorted matrix. Mudflows are finegrained debris flows. Low viscosity debris flows have graded bedding and horizontal orientation of tabular particles. Viscous flows have uniform particle distribution and vertical preferred orientation that may be normal to the flow direction.
Logarithmic plots of the coarsest one-percentile versus median particle size may make patterns distinctive of depositional environments. Sinuous patterns indicate shallow ephemeral-stream environments. Rectilinear patterns indicate debris-flow environments.
Fans consist of lenticular sheets of debris (length width ratio generally 5 to 20) and abundant channel fills near the apex. Adjacent beds commonly vary greatly in particle size, sorting, and thickness. Beds extend for long distances along radial sections and channel deposits are rare. Cross-fan sections reveal beds of limited extent that are interrupted by cut-and-fill structures.
Three longitudinal shapes are common in cross section. A fan may be lenticular, or a wedge that is either thickest, or thinnest, near the mountains.
Figures & Tables
Recognition of Ancient Sedimentary Environments
This volume contains a series of papers presented as part of a symposium held in Dallas, Texas, April 1969, at the annual national meeting of the Society. The problem of recognizing ancient sedimentary environments in the stratigraphic record is basic to essentially every aspect of research in sedimentary rocks. The publication will summarize much of what we currently know concerning environmental interpretation.