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The Albuquerque Basin is one of the largest and deepest basins of the Rio Grande rift. The latest Oligocene to middle Pleistocene Santa Fe Group is the major basin fill unit. Paleogene deposits underlie the Santa Fe and indicate that a depositional center predated the Albuquerque Basin. Pre-Santa Fe Tertiary deposits are subdivided into a lower unit that is at least partly correlative with the Eocene Galisteo and Baca Formations and an upper unit, the unit of Isleta #2, that is equivalent to the Datil Group and the overlying sequence of Oligocene volcanic rocks. Thickness of the Santa Fe Group ranges from 1,000 to 2,000 m along the basin margins to as much as 4,407 m in the basin center. Galisteo and Baca thicknesses are as much as 454 m; the unit of Isleta #2 is up to 2,185 m in the Shell West Mesa well.

Galisteo-Baca sediments were deposited in basins that predated the Albuquerque Basin. These depocenters continued to receive sediments of the unit of Isleta #2 during early to middle Oligocene time. Lower Santa Fe sediments (30 to 5 Ma) were deposited into two internally drained basins. After 10 Ma, the Santa Fe had filled the basins to the point where a single, internally drained Albuquerque Basin was formed. At about 5 Ma, the basin drainage became through-flowing with the development of the ancestral Rio Grande. The first major episode of Rio Grande Valley entrenchment at about 1.0 Ma ended Santa Fe deposition. Sedimentation rates ranged from 20 to 30 m/m.y. during early and late phases of Santa Fe deposition to as much as 600 m/m.y. during middle Miocene deposition.

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