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A sub–Middle Jurassic unconformity is exhumed at Swift Reservoir, in the Rocky Mountain fold-and-thrust belt of Montana. The unconformity separates late Mississippian Sun River Dolomite of the Madison Group (ca. 340 Ma) from the transgressive basal sandstone of the Middle Jurassic (Bajocian-Bathonian) Sawtooth Formation (ca. 170 Ma). North-northwest–trending, karst-widened fractures (grikes) filled with cherty and phosphatic sandstone and conglomerate of the basal Sawtooth Formation penetrate the Madison Group for 4 m below the unconformity. The fractures link into sandstone-filled cavities along bedding planes. Clam borings, filled with fine-grained Sawtooth sandstone, pepper the unconformity surface and some of the fracture walls. Sandstone-filled clam borings also perforate rounded clasts of Mississippian limestone that lie on the surface of the unconformity within basal Sawtooth conglomerate. After deposition of the overlying foreland basin clastic wedge, the grikes were stylolitized by layer-parallel shortening and then buckled over fault-propagation anticlinal crests in the Late Cretaceous–Paleocene fold-and-thrust belt. We propose that the grikes record uplift and erosion followed by subsidence as the Rocky Mountain foreland experienced elastic flexure in response to tectonic loading at the plate boundary farther to the west during the Middle Jurassic. The forebulge opened strike-parallel fractures in the Madison Group that were then karstified. The sandstone-filled karst system contributes secondary porosity and permeability to the upper Madison Group, which is a major petroleum reservoir in the region. The recognition of the fractures as pre–Middle Jurassic revises previous models that have related them to Cretaceous or Paleocene fracturing over the crests of fault-propagation folds in the fold-and-thrust belt, substantially changing our understanding of the hydrocarbon system.

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