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Abstract

The purpose of this field trip is to examine the sedimentology, sedimentary architecture, stacking patterns, and correlation of fluvial, coastal plain, deltaic, and shoreface to shelf deposits in the low accommodation Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval (Campanian), Book Cliffs, eastern Utah. Traditional sequence stratigraphic models of falling stage deposits will be tested against an alternative sequence stratigraphic model that links the nonmarine to shallow-marine facies belts in both time and space. The trip will focus on the exceptional three-dimensional outcrop exposures in the Thompson Pass to Sagers Canyon region. At least eight sequence stratigraphic rock packages are identified and correlated, and these combine to form two progradational parasequence sets. The lower set comprises Desert Member rock packages 1-7, while the upper set comprises the SM/CC-2 rock package and overlying nonmarine strata of the Castlegate Sandstone. Rock package 7 is bounded above and below by coal-bearing, carbonaceous-rich zones. Correlation of the Upper and Lower Coal zones across the Crescent Canyon to Blaze Canyon region establishes a clear chronostratigraphic link between the nonmarine and shallow-marine strata of the Desert-Castlegate interval. The “fusing/welding” of rock packages 7 and SM/CC-2 with underlying cliff-forming sandstones in the South Face-Central to South Face-East region of Horse Heaven further demonstrates the chronostratigraphic link between the nonmarine and shallow marine.

The alternative sequence stratigraphic interpretation of the Desert-Castlegate interval connects the nonmarine and shallow-marine facies belts in time and space, through correlation of coals, marine flooding surfaces, multi-storey channel complexes, and falling stage shallow-marine successions. “High-frequency” fluvial incision surfaces (sequence boundaries) merge to form a diachronous, lithostratigraphic contact between the nonmarine and shallow-marine facies belts. These contacts were previously defined as the “Desert SB” and “Castlegate SB” by J.C. Van Wagoner and were linked to longer term sea-level falls. Subsequent analysis of the “Desert SB” has revealed an amalgamation of “high-frequency” sequence boundaries that merge and split in a complex manner. Each “high-frequency” surface represents a shorter term portion of the longer term falling sea-level curve, which is equivalent to a parasequence-scale relative fall in sea level. “High-frequency” sequence boundary development, forced regression, and minor coastal plain aggradation occurs during the falling limb of the shorter term sea-level curve, followed by shallow-marine flooding, valley in-fill, coastal plain aggradation, and regional coal deposition during the rising limb of the shorter term sea-level curve. Individual nonmarine to shallow-marine chrono-slabs stack together. Inter-slab incision is rare in shallow-marine sections and where noted is relatively gentle (<3 m incision). In contrast, inter-slab incision is more significant in coastal plain settings due to reduced accommodation under falling stage conditions. The chrono-slab, parasequence-scale model for falling stage deposits in the Desert-Castlegate interval has four facies belts or zones. These record the transition from (i) nonmarine settings with single storey channels and scattered multistorey channel-fill complexes, to (ii) large-scale, multi-storey channel-fill successions (IVFs), to (iii) interbedded large-scale, multi-storey channel-fill successions (IVFs) and sandstone-rich proximal shallow-marine deposits, to (iv) proximal to distal, shoreface to shelf parasequences. This alternative chrono-slab model is likely applicable to falling stage deposits worldwide, especially those within a foreland basin setting. Ongoing research will extend the chrono-slab correlations outside of the study area and examine the relationship between relative sea-level history and chrono-slab thickness, facies belt length, and number of facies belts per chrono-slab.

INTRODUCTION

The Cretaceous was a naturally occurring “greenhouse period” in Earth’s history when the dinosaurs reigned supreme and the Western Interior of North America, from Arctic Canada to the Gulf of Mexico was flooded with seawater. Global sea level was up to 250 m higher than present day. The Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway dissected the North American continent into two parts: a mountainous western half and a lower-lying eastern half. The western half was tectonically active with only a narrow coastal plain separating the Sevier thrust front from the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway. Small-to moderate-sized, eastward-flowing rivers transported a significant volume of sediments into the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway, depositing thick successions of sands, silts, and clays. Following deposition and lithification, these sedimentary rocks were slowly uplifted and eroded to form the magnificent scenery in the Western Interior of North America. One of the most spectacular regions is the Canyonlands area of east-central Utah, which is home to two national parks and the longest continuous cliff line in the world, the 300-km-long Book Cliffs (Fig. 1). These famous rocks have been used to develop, test, and refine sedimentological and stratigraphic ideas and models over the years, including the principles and concepts of sequence stratigraphy (Van Wagoner et al., 1990; Posamentier and Allen, 1999). In addition, these rocks are regularly used as an outcrop analog for fluvial, deltaic, and shoreface to shelf hydrocarbon reservoirs worldwide.

GEOLOGICAL SETTING

The Book Cliffs are situated on the northern rim of the Colorado Plateau and have been eroded back from the San Rafael Swell in east-central Utah and the Uncompahgre Uplift in eastern Utah and western Colorado (Fig. 1). This provides a gentle structural dip of 1–5° N throughout most of this region. The rocks are basically flat lying and are relatively undeformed. Small normal faults are observed in places.

The Late Cretaceous (Campanian) strata in the Book Cliffs consist of the Star Point Formation, Blackhawk Formation, and Castlegate Sandstone, forming part of the Mesaverde Group (Fig. 2A; Young, 1955). The Blackhawk Formation is subdivided into six members: Spring Canyon, Aberdeen, Kenilworth, Sunnyside, Grassy, and Desert (Fig. 2) (Young, 1955). These sedimentary rocks grade from sandstone-dominated intervals in the west to the mudstone-dominated Mancos Shale in the east (Young, 1955; Balsley, 1980). The Blackhawk Formation spans a 3.5 million year interval from ca. 82.5 Ma to 79 Ma (Fouch et al., 1983). The main facies belts are braided fluvial, meandering fluvial, coastal plain, river- and wave-dominated deltas, upper and lower shoreface, and offshore/inner shelf. Pattison (2005a) established a parasequence-scale correlation framework for the main stratigraphic units in the Book Cliffs that was true to scale (i.e., vertical, lateral) and sand content, thus providing a “scaled” stratigraphic cross section that links the shoreface to shelf environments in both time and space (Fig. 2A). The focus of this field trip is the Desert Member and Castlegate Sandstone.

During the Campanian, the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway covered the eastern half of Utah and paleoshoreline trends were oriented approximately north to south (McGookey et al., 1972). Desert Member and Castlegate Sandstone shoreline trends were oriented NE-SW, with offshore toward the SE (van de Graaff, 1972; Fouch et al., 1983; Chan and Pfaff, 1991; Van Wagoner, 1991, 1995; Miall, 1993, 1994; Roberts and Kirsch-baum, 1995; Miall and Arush, 2001).

One of the best exposed channel-shoreface packages in the Book Cliffs region straddles the Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval. Nonmarine to marginal-marine-dominated (i.e., channels, coastal plain) outcrops are located in east-central Utah while shallow-marine-dominated (i.e., shore-face, deltaics) outcrops are located further east. The transition from the channel-to shoreface-dominated intervals is beautifully exposed in three dimensions in the numerous canyons and side canyons in the southern sector of the Book Cliffs. Most studies of the Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval concentrate on the up-depositional-dip, fluvially dominated regions in east-central Utah (van de Graaff, 1972; Chan and Pfaff, 1991; Miall, 1994; Olsen et al., 1995; Yoshida, 2000; Horton et al., 2004; Adams and Bhattacharya, 2005; McLaurin and Steel, 2007). Fewer studies have examined the down-depositional-dip estuarine-tidal-fluvial channels and shallow-marine facies belts in eastern Utah (Van Wagoner, 1991, 1995; Nummedal et al., 1992; Nummedal and Cole, 1993; Pattison, 1994a, 1994b; Nummedal et al., 2001; Hettinger and Kirschbaum, 2002; Pattison, 2009). This field trip will focus on the exceptional 3D outcrops in the Crescent Canyon to Thompson Canyon region.

FIELD TRIP ITINERARY

The Book Cliffs are dissected by numerous side canyons and re-entrants providing exceptional three-dimensional outcrop control, both along depositional-dip and depositional-strike. This combined with the near-horizontal structural configuration makes the Book Cliffs a world-class field laboratory for studying clastic sedimentology and sequence stratigraphy. It is truly one of the few areas in the world where you can walk and drive-out time equivalent depositional units from their proximal fluvial-coastal plain environments through the shallow-marine shoreface-deltaic environments and out onto the shelf. This is a 3-day field trip. The road log is given in the Appendix. Field trip stops are organized as follows (Fig. 1):

Figure 1.

Location map showing field stops. Locations are abbreviated as follows: BB—Battleship Butte; BCB—Blue Castle Butte; MM—Middle Mountain; GB—Gunnison Butte; GV—Gunnison Valley; TC—Tusher Canyon; CC—Coal Canyon; SC—Stub Canyon; CCB—Coal Canyon Bench; UC—Unnamed Canyon; HC-S—Horse Canyon South; HsM—Horse Mesa; HM—Hatch Mesa; FW—Floy Wash; CR—Christmas Ridge; FC—Floy Canyon; CrC—Crescent Canyon; HH—Horse Heaven; BzC—Blaze Canyon; ThC—Thompson Canyon; StW—Salt Wash; BW—Bootlegger Wash; SgC— Sagers Canyon; SgW—Sagers Wash; Pinto Wash—PW; and Corral Point—CP). Location of Crescent Canyon (Fig. 3) and Horse Heaven (Fig. 7A) high-resolution maps are shown by labeled boxes. Inset maps show the location of the study area in Utah. SLC—Salt Lake City.

Figure 1.

Location map showing field stops. Locations are abbreviated as follows: BB—Battleship Butte; BCB—Blue Castle Butte; MM—Middle Mountain; GB—Gunnison Butte; GV—Gunnison Valley; TC—Tusher Canyon; CC—Coal Canyon; SC—Stub Canyon; CCB—Coal Canyon Bench; UC—Unnamed Canyon; HC-S—Horse Canyon South; HsM—Horse Mesa; HM—Hatch Mesa; FW—Floy Wash; CR—Christmas Ridge; FC—Floy Canyon; CrC—Crescent Canyon; HH—Horse Heaven; BzC—Blaze Canyon; ThC—Thompson Canyon; StW—Salt Wash; BW—Bootlegger Wash; SgC— Sagers Canyon; SgW—Sagers Wash; Pinto Wash—PW; and Corral Point—CP). Location of Crescent Canyon (Fig. 3) and Horse Heaven (Fig. 7A) high-resolution maps are shown by labeled boxes. Inset maps show the location of the study area in Utah. SLC—Salt Lake City.

Day 1

  1. 1:

    Introduction to the Distal Book Cliffs, Thompson Rest Stop Overview

  2. 2:

    Channels, Coastal Plain, and Shoreface/Deltaic Deposits, The Basin

The purpose of Day 1 is to examine the sedimentology and sedimentary architecture of fluvial, coastal plain, deltaic and shoreface to shelf deposits in the Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval. We will visit some awesome outcrops including: (a) fluvial-tidal sandstones of the Castlegate Sandstone, (b) low to moderate net:gross fluvial and coastal plain deposits of the Desert Member and Castlegate Sandstone, and (c) wave-to storm-dominated deltaic-shoreface sandstones of the Desert Member. Emphasis will be placed on the sedimentology and sedimentary architecture of nonmarine (channels, coastal plain) and shallow-marine (shoreface, deltas) deposits in a low accommodation, falling stage systems tract setting.

Figure 2.

(A) Scaled-stratigraphic, dip-oriented cross section of the Castlegate Sandstone, Blackhawk Formation, Star Point Formation, and Mancos Shale interval in the Book Cliffs region of east-central Utah (modified from Young, 1955; Balsley, 1980; Cole et al., 1997; Hettinger and Kirschbaum, 2002). Member boundaries have been extended eastward into the Mancos Shale using high-resolution outcrop and subsurface correlations (Pattison, 2005a, 2005b, 2005c). BH CP’Blackhawk Formation coastal plain; C. Ss.’Castlegate Sandstone. Key field stop areas are shown along the top. (B) Thompson rest stop overview. Photo-panorama looking north toward the Book Cliffs. Field of view is ~5 km. The Castlegate Sandstone and Desert Member (Blackhawk Formation) combine to form the distinct cliff line in the foreground. These sandstone-rich units are underlain by the distal Grassy Member (Blackhawk Formation), which rests on top of over 1000 m of Mancos Shale. Younger stratigraphic units overlying the Castlegate Sandstone are the Buck Tongue (Mancos Shale), Sego Sandstone, and Neslen Formation. (C) Trough Spring Ridge, South Face. This marks the southern boundary of The Basin. (D) and (E) A thick package of fluvial and coastal plain deposits (Desert Member and Castlegate Sandstone) rest stratigraphically above Desert Member shallow-marine deposits. Note the differences in terrestrial facies stacking patterns that occur over short distances (i.e., 350 m apart). (F) The Basin. Sedimentary architecture and correlation of coastal plain and channel packages. CC’multi-storey channel complex. Panorama looks SW to NW.

Figure 2.

(A) Scaled-stratigraphic, dip-oriented cross section of the Castlegate Sandstone, Blackhawk Formation, Star Point Formation, and Mancos Shale interval in the Book Cliffs region of east-central Utah (modified from Young, 1955; Balsley, 1980; Cole et al., 1997; Hettinger and Kirschbaum, 2002). Member boundaries have been extended eastward into the Mancos Shale using high-resolution outcrop and subsurface correlations (Pattison, 2005a, 2005b, 2005c). BH CP’Blackhawk Formation coastal plain; C. Ss.’Castlegate Sandstone. Key field stop areas are shown along the top. (B) Thompson rest stop overview. Photo-panorama looking north toward the Book Cliffs. Field of view is ~5 km. The Castlegate Sandstone and Desert Member (Blackhawk Formation) combine to form the distinct cliff line in the foreground. These sandstone-rich units are underlain by the distal Grassy Member (Blackhawk Formation), which rests on top of over 1000 m of Mancos Shale. Younger stratigraphic units overlying the Castlegate Sandstone are the Buck Tongue (Mancos Shale), Sego Sandstone, and Neslen Formation. (C) Trough Spring Ridge, South Face. This marks the southern boundary of The Basin. (D) and (E) A thick package of fluvial and coastal plain deposits (Desert Member and Castlegate Sandstone) rest stratigraphically above Desert Member shallow-marine deposits. Note the differences in terrestrial facies stacking patterns that occur over short distances (i.e., 350 m apart). (F) The Basin. Sedimentary architecture and correlation of coastal plain and channel packages. CC’multi-storey channel complex. Panorama looks SW to NW.

Day 2

  1. 3:

    Three-Dimensional Sedimentary Architecture, Crescent Canyon

  2. 4:

    Three-Dimensional Sedimentary Architecture, Horse Heaven

  3. 5:

    Low Accommodation Setting, West-West and West of Blaze Canyon

  4. 6:

    High-Resolution Sequence Stratigraphy, Blaze Canyon

Day 2 will take us into the Crescent Canyon to Horse Heaven to Blaze Canyon region where participants will have an excellent opportunity to examine the three-dimensional sedimentary architecture of channel-fill and coastal plain deposits. The main themes are stacking patterns, correlation, sea-level change, and sequence stratigraphy in a low accommodation setting. Stops are organized to move progressively further down-depositional-dip during the day, where participants will be able to test the viability of each sequence stratigraphic correlation scenario.

Day 3

  1. 7:

    Reservoir-Scale Architecture Channel-Shoreface Units, Thompson Canyon

  2. 8:

    Channel-Shoreface to Shelf Transition, Sagers Canyon

The central theme for Day 3 is to examine sequence stratigraphic models of channel-shallow-marine (deltaic, shoreface) packages in a low accommodation setting. Stops will be in the Thompson Canyon to Sagers Canyon region. The sedimentology, sedimentary architecture and sequence stratigraphy will be examined in detail both at a reservoir/field-scale and at an exploration-scale. These rocks have been used as an analogue for a numerous hydrocarbon reservoirs worldwide, including a variety of Tertiary Deltas such as the Mississippi and Niger deltas.

Stop 1. Thompson Rest Stop Overview

The Mancos Shale and the distal expression of the Blackhawk Formation and Castlegate Sandstone are exposed in the 250-m-high Book Cliffs at Thompson (Fig. 2B). Shallow-marine and channel sandstones of the Castlegate Sandstone and Desert Member form the ridgeline top in the Thompson area (Fig. 2B). Careful tracking along the Book Cliffs outcrop trend reveals an up-depositional-dip thickening (west) and a down-dip thinning (east) of these sandstones. At this stop, the amalgamated Castlegate to Desert interval is ~110 m thick, with over 60 m of sandstone-dominated deposits. Distal thin-bedded sandstones and siltstones of the Grassy Member are exposed beneath the cliff-forming Castlegate to Desert interval. The rest stop and I-70 are directly on top of the Mancos Shale, which is over 1000 m thick in eastern Utah. In eastern Utah and western Colorado, a 100–400 m thick section of the Mancos Shale has an anomalously high sandstone content along certain horizons (Kellogg, 1977; Cole and Young, 1991). These deposits were originally called the Mancos B interval and are now formally defined as the Prairie Canyon Member (Fig. 2A) (Cole et al., 1997). The Prairie Canyon Member is roughly time equivalent to the Star Point and Blackhawk formations further to the west (Fig. 2A) (Cole et al., 1997; Hampson et al., 1999, 2001). Isolated shelf sandstone bodies are scattered throughout this region (Pattison, 2005a, 2005b, 2005c; Pattison et al., 2007a; Pattison and Hoffman, 2008). Regional correlations have revealed that the top of the Prairie Canyon Member is likely equivalent to the top of the Grassy Member, while the top of the Middle Unit of the Prairie Canyon Member is time equivalent to the top of the Kenilworth Member (Fig. 2A) (Hettinger and Kirschbaum, 2002; Pattison, 2005a).

Stop 2. The Basin

This stop is located in a side canyon along the northwestern edge of Trough Spring Ridge ~11 km north of I-70 (Figs. 1 and 2C2F). The geology of the Book Cliffs in the Horse Mesa to The Basin to Trough Spring Ridge region is unique because of the presence of large-scale structural features which are near absent from most other Book Cliff sections. The Salt Valley Anticline is well exposed in Arches National Park to the southeast and extends northwestward across I-70, thus explaining the 100-m-scale structural offset observed in the Horse Mesa-The Basin-Trough Spring Ridge-Christmas Ridge region. The central core of the Salt Valley Anticline is characterized by a collapsed crest or axial graben called the Salt Valley Graben (Walton, 1956). This structural feature is prominently exposed to the north-northwest as we drive into The Basin. Note that the vegetated top of the Castlegate Sandstone is exposed at road level in The Basin and compare it to the cliff-topping exposures of the Castlegate Sandstone along Horse Mesa (to the west) and Trough Spring Ridge (to the east). We will park our vehicles at the end of the road next to the Blaze A-1 well, which has produced oil at a depth of 9045 feet from the Jurassic Navajo Sandstone. Southwest to northeast-trending faults cut the northwestern nose of the Salt Valley Graben providing structural closure on the Navajo Sandstone (Walton, 1956).

From base to top, the main architectural elements in The Basin are as follows: (i) mudstones of the Mancos Shale, (ii) thin-bedded inner shelf/lower shoreface heterolithics of the Desert Member, (iii) thick-bedded upper shoreface/deltaic sandstones of the Desert Member, and (iv) interbedded coastal plain (i.e., organic-rich mudstones, coal, thin-bedded sandstones) and channel-fill (i.e., organic-rich cross-bedded sandstones) deposits of the amalgamated upper Desert Member and Castlegate Sandstone (Fig. 2C2F). Note that the shallow-marine section is easy to correlate along the cliff face, while the fluvial and coastal plain deposits are difficult to correlate, even at a relatively close spacing of a few hundred meters (Figs. 2C2E). We will examine these characteristics throughout the day.

The first stop in this region, beside the Blaze A-1 well, affords an exceptional opportunity to study reservoir-scale changes in the sedimentary architecture and stacking of channel-fill, coastal plain, and shallow-marine depositional systems. Desert Member and Castlegate Sandstone outcrops are wonderfully exposed and are highly visible in three dimensions in the Blaze A-1 well locality. This is an excellent chance to examine changes in reservoir geology within a channel-shallow-marine depositional system, at distances analogous to those in a tightly drilled hydrocarbon field (i.e., legal subdivision or quarter-quarter-section spacing). The near road outcrop in the Blaze A-1 well vicinity neatly fits into a quarter-section grid (½ mile × ½ mile), while the section-scale changes can be investigated by hiking through the various side canyons or carefully climbing nearby ridges. A thick package of fluvial and coastal plain deposits (Desert Member and Castlegate Sandstone) rests stratigraphically above Desert Member shallow-marine deposits in this region. Terrestrial facies stacking patterns show significant changes over relatively short distances (i.e., 50–100 m). Shallow-marine deposits stack to form at least three parasequences, with the uppermost parasequence having the greatest proportion of sandstone, thus defining a progradational parasequence set. Many shorefaces are sharpbased, which is typical of forced regression during falling stage and early lowstand.

After walking and viewing the Desert-Castlegate succession from the vicinity of the Blaze A-1 well, we will drive back out of the canyon and continue farther north on the road. Park the vehicles on the north side of The Basin and hike ~400 m south into a natural amphitheater or bowl. This stop allows for detailed 3D examination of channel and coastal plain facies at a quarter-quarter section spacing or legal subdivision. The top of the Desert Member shallow-marine section is a prominent white-cap-sandstone which comprises the floor of the amphitheater or bowl (Fig. 2F). Note the presence of at least three multi-storey channel complexes (CC-1 to CC-3) of variable thickness and lateral continuity, as well as numerous single storey channel-fills, including some with convolute bedded sandstones (Fig. 2F). The excellent 3D outcrop control in this amphitheater allows one to determine the lateral continuity of each type of channel sandstone package, thus providing an excellent analogue for correlating similar types of reservoir units in the subsurface (i.e., spatial distribution, net:gross patterns, sand body continuity and connectivity). The base of the CC-2 channel complex deeply incises (4–5 m) into the underlying fine-grained coastal plain and coal deposits.

Possible interpretations for the origin and significance of the multi-storey channel-fill complexes include both allocyclic (i.e., base-level fall) and autocyclic (i.e., flow convergence) controls. The former interpretation would be strengthened if there was time equivalent evidence for base level fall in the shallow-marine section further down-depositional-dip (e.g., forced regression, regressive surfaces of marine erosion, falling stage stacking pattern, significant basinward shifts of facies belts), while the latter interpretation would be favored if there was no apparent link between the nonmarine and marine stacking patterns. The answers lie within the observations and descriptions of the sedimentary rocks down-dip, in the Crescent Canyon to Blaze Canyon region, coupled with their correlation to the rocks further up-dip. There will be ample opportunity to observe and describe the Desert-Castlegate stratigraphic interval as we progressively move in a down-dip (i.e., east) direction through the field trip, allowing the participants to formulate, test, and refine multiple working hypotheses and to narrow down our options for interpretation.

Stop 3. Crescent Canyon

Our stops today will take us into an extraordinary area that is characterized by some of the best three-dimensional outcrop control in the Book Cliffs region. The Crescent Canyon to Horse Heaven region has exceptional depositional-strike and depositional-dip-oriented outcrop exposures, with numerous side canyons, bowls, and cliff-forming walls (Fig. 3). This region encompasses ~26 km2, and is critically positioned at a transition from the nonmarine-dominated Desert-Castlegate interval in the west (i.e., Thompson Pass) to the marginal-marine-and shallow-marine-dominated Desert-Castlegate to the east (i.e., Blaze Canyon) (Fig. 1). Needless to say, the Crescent Canyon to Horse Heaven region is a key area for unlocking the secrets of the Desert to Castlegate stratigraphic interval.

Crescent Canyon is located ~6.5 km east of The Basin (Fig. 1). Exit I-70 north at the Moab/Crescent Junction intersection, and continue to drive a few hundred meters east on the old highway. Turn north (left) onto the road to the nuclear waste disposal site. After crossing the railway tracks, turn left onto the Thompson Pass/Crescent Canyon dirt road and drive ~3 km north-northwest. Turn right (northeast) onto a road and drive another 4.5 km into Crescent Canyon, which is informally subdivided into nine physiographic zones: Southwest Wall, West-Side Canyon, West Wall, Northwest Wall, Northeast Wall, East-Side Canyon-North, East Wall, East-Side Canyon-South, and Southeast Wall (Fig. 3). Nearby informal physiographic zones include the South Face and East Bowl of Thompson Pass, and the Northwest Bowl, Southwest Bowl, and South Face (West, Central, East) of Horse Heaven (Figs. 3 and 7A).

Facies and “Big Picture” Stratigraphy

The “big picture” stratigraphy is a stack of shallow-marine facies (Desert Member) overlain by a stack of nonmarine facies (upper Desert Member and Castlegate Sandstone), thus defining an overall progradational or shallowing-upward vertical facies succession (Figs. 46). The shallow-marine facies include planar-laminated, cross-bedded, swaley cross stratified (SCS), hummocky cross stratified (HCS), and wave-rippled sandstones; bioturbated siltstones and mudstones; and non-bioturbated dark mudstones. White cap sandstones and iron-rich nodules/beds occur within the shallow-marine deposits forming excellent marker beds for correlation (Fig. 5). Most shallow-marine facies form gradationally based coarsening-upward successions that progressively pass from mudstones and siltstones at the base, to wave-rippled, HCS, SCS, cross-bedded and planar-laminated sandstones at the top (Fig. 4). Some of these successions are sharp-based, characterized by a rapid vertical transition from mudstones and siltstones to thickly bedded sandstones (e.g., base of 5) (Fig. 4). Each succession is overlain by distal facies which records a landward shift in facies belts, thus defining a marine flooding surface at the top. These successions are therefore interpreted as parasequences. The only exception to this rule is the uppermost shallow-marine deposits, which are overlain by the nonmarine facies (i.e., progradation, not flooding).

Most shallow-marine successions show a gradational facies change into the overlying channel-fill and coastal plain facies (Fig. 5). Although sandstone-on-sandstone contacts commonly occur between the shallow-marine to nonmarine (channels, coastal plain) packages, most of these contacts are relatively conformable (Fig. 4). Some gentle incisions (meter-scale) do occur in the upper portion of the shallow-marine package, however most marine to nonmarine contacts are characterized by rooted foreshore sandstones passing stratigraphically upwards into channel or coastal plain facies. These gradational facies contacts could be represent interfluve regions. Deep incisions into the lower shoreface or inner shelf heterolithics characteristic of incised valleyfills are not observed in the Crescent Canyon area.

The nonmarine facies includes fine-grained coastal plain deposits, single-storey channel-fill, and multi-storey channel-fill complexes (Figs. 46). Fine-grained coastal plain deposits include silty sandstone to sandy siltstone with iron-staining and organic matter; iron-rich siltstone to sandstone with plant debris and coal fragments; light gray-green organic-rich mudstone; carbonaceous-rich shale (“carb-shale”); and coal (Figs. 46). Thick packages of coastal plain deposits occur throughout the Crescent Canyon region and these are often highly weathered and covered by vegetation and/or scree. Excellent quality exposures are rare but do occur beneath cliff-forming sandstone-rich single-storey and multi-storey channel-fill complexes (e.g., road level coal zone; Fig. 6A). Coastal plain facies have a wide range of grain size and sorting, and are often iron-stained, rich in organic matter (i.e., finely comminuted plant debris; wood, leaf, and coal fragments; roots and rootlets), and have a sheet-like geometry. Coals are sub-bituminous to bituminous, have variable thickness (i.e., beds are generally 10–100 cm thick), and are locally to regionally extensive.

Channel facies are dominated by cross-bedded, convolute-bedded, planar laminated and current ripple-laminated sandstones; sandstones with mud-and coal-fragments; and silty sandstone/sandy siltstone with iron-staining and organic matter. Most single-storey channel-fill successions are characterized by smaller-scale lateral accretion (decimeters) compared to the multi-storey channel complexes. Some single-storey channel-fills are marked by large-scale convolute-bedded sandstones that exhibit near meter-scale fold geometries (i.e., wavelength and amplitude). One mechanism that is capable of generating these large-scale convolute bedded sandstones is earthquakes. If true, these layers would represent seismites and therefore would be an excellent chronostratigraphic marker/event bed for correlating the coastal plain strata.

Figure 3.

Crescent Canyon. Merged U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps (Floy Canyon South and Crescent Junction) showing the Thompson Pass, Crescent Canyon, and Horse Heaven region. Crescent Canyon is informally subdivided into the following physiographic zones: Southwest Wall, West-Side Canyon, West Wall, Northwest Wall, Northeast Wall, East-Side Canyon-North, East Wall, East-Side Canyon-South, and Southeast Wall. Informal physiographic zones are also shown for the east part of Thompson Pass (South Face, East Bowl) and Horse Heaven Northwest Bowl, Southwest Bowl, South Face).

Figure 3.

Crescent Canyon. Merged U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps (Floy Canyon South and Crescent Junction) showing the Thompson Pass, Crescent Canyon, and Horse Heaven region. Crescent Canyon is informally subdivided into the following physiographic zones: Southwest Wall, West-Side Canyon, West Wall, Northwest Wall, Northeast Wall, East-Side Canyon-North, East Wall, East-Side Canyon-South, and Southeast Wall. Informal physiographic zones are also shown for the east part of Thompson Pass (South Face, East Bowl) and Horse Heaven Northwest Bowl, Southwest Bowl, South Face).

Figure 4.

Measured section through the Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval, West Wall, Crescent Canyon. Eight chronostratigraphic rock packages are identified, and are labeled 1–7, and CC-2 (multi-storey channel complex-2).

Figure 4.

Measured section through the Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval, West Wall, Crescent Canyon. Eight chronostratigraphic rock packages are identified, and are labeled 1–7, and CC-2 (multi-storey channel complex-2).

Multi-storey channel complexes are well defined along at least three levels in the Crescent Canyon region. The sandstone-rich, multi-storey channel complex-2 (CC-2) is over 15 m thick, and is characterized by well-defined and large-scale lateral accretion surfaces which are prominently displayed along the West Wall of Crescent Canyon (Fig. 6). CC-2 shows a northward change from sandstone-rich to heterolithic-rich along a 200 m segment of the West Wall. The basal part of CC-2 is marked by meter-scale truncation surfaces (>3 m incision), some of which cut into the underlying coastal plain siltstones, “carb-shales,” and coals. Deep incision is also noted along the northeast face of the East Bowl of Thompson Pass (Fig. 6B).

Chronostratigraphic Rock Packages

The Desert Member and Castlegate Sandstone facies in the Crescent Canyon to Horse Heaven region are clustered into at least eight sequence stratigraphic rock packages, labeled 1–7 and CC-2 (multi-storey channel complex-2) (Figs. 46). At present, this nomenclature has limited utility outside of this region, and is currently not designed as a comprehensive sequence stratigraphic template for the entire Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone interval in eastern Utah. Detailed correlations are currently being extended both up-and down-depositional dip of the areas that we visit on this field trip. Therefore the sequence stratigraphic nomenclature used in this guidebook manuscript represents work in progress. Research is ongoing.

Figure 5.

Crescent Canyon. (A) Photo-panorama showing the correlation of eight chronostratigraphic rock packages (1–7, CC-2), West-Side Canyon to West Wall, Crescent Canyon. Camera position along the Southeast Wall of Crescent Canyon, looking northwest. White-cap (wc) sandstone within parasequence 5 is a useful correlation marker. Large-scale lateral accretion surfaces (LAS) highlighted by dashed lines within rock package 7. CC-2 (multi-storey channel complex-2). Crescent Canyon road in the upper right. (B) Photo-panorama, Southeast Wall, Crescent Canyon. Note the large-scale incision, lateral accretion surfaces and 12–15 m thickness of the CC-2 multi-storey channel complex.

Figure 5.

Crescent Canyon. (A) Photo-panorama showing the correlation of eight chronostratigraphic rock packages (1–7, CC-2), West-Side Canyon to West Wall, Crescent Canyon. Camera position along the Southeast Wall of Crescent Canyon, looking northwest. White-cap (wc) sandstone within parasequence 5 is a useful correlation marker. Large-scale lateral accretion surfaces (LAS) highlighted by dashed lines within rock package 7. CC-2 (multi-storey channel complex-2). Crescent Canyon road in the upper right. (B) Photo-panorama, Southeast Wall, Crescent Canyon. Note the large-scale incision, lateral accretion surfaces and 12–15 m thickness of the CC-2 multi-storey channel complex.

Rock package 1 is comprised of shelf mudstones from at least five parasequences that are recognized up-depositional-dip to the west. Rock packages 2–5 are defined as parasequences (i.e., bounded above and below by marine flooding surfaces), and together these stack to form a progradational parasequence set. In Crescent Canyon, parasequences 2–4 occur as gradationally based coarsening-upward (CU) successions, while parase-quence 5 occurs as a sharp-based CU succession with a regressive surface of marine erosion at the base of the amalgamated sandstone beds (Fig. 4). To the east, parasequence 5 splits (i.e., along the contact marked by the white cap layer) into two cycles (5a and 5b). Rock package 6 consists of varying proportions of shallow-marine and non/marginal-marine (channel sandstones, coastal plain) facies. Nonmarine/marginal-marine deposits are dominant to the west, while shallow-marine sandstones are abundant toward the east, where package 6 splits into three cycles (6a to 6c). Package 6 thickens from west to east across the area (Figs. 4, 5, and 812). Rock package 7 is composed of nonmarine/ marginal-marine strata and is highlighted by the sporadic outcropping of channel-fill deposits with large-scale (i.e., hundreds of meters in length) sandstone-or heterolithic-rich lateral accretion surfaces (Fig. 5A). Package 7 is bounded above and below by coal-bearing, carbonaceous-rich zones. The Upper Coal zone is labeled Coal 2 or the “Road Level Coal,” while the Lower Coal zone is labeled Coal 1 or the “Cattleguard Coal” (Fig. 4). Correlation of the Upper and Lower Coal zones is easily achieved thus forming excellent marker horizons throughout the Crescent Canyon to Blaze Canyon region (Figs. 913). CC-2 is the uppermost chronostratigraphic rock package that can be correlated in the Crescent Canyon region. This rock package consists of a multistorey stack of sandstone-and/or heterolithic-rich channel-fill successions, with a maximum of five channel stories per stack. Individual channel stories can deeply incise (>5 m incision) into the underlying channel-fill successions, and some are characterized by large-scale lateral accretion surfaces (Figs. 5 and 6).

Stop 4. Horse Heaven

Informal physiographic subdivisions of Horse Heaven include the Northwest Bowl, Southwest Bowl and the South Face (West, Central, East) (Fig. 7). The South Face ridgeline is ~3.5 km long: West (1.0 km), Central (1.3 km), and East (1.2 km). Horse Heaven is accessed by driving to the top of the Castle-gate Sandstone, north through Crescent Canyon, followed by an east turn (right-hand-fork) onto a road that continues along the top of the Castlegate Sandstone, all the way to Thompson Canyon. Drive ~3.5 km east and south along the “road-up-top.” Park the vehicle off the side of the road and hike ~1 km west to the NW and SW Bowl region. Alternatively, one can also hike ~1 km south-southeast in order to reach the South Face of Horse Heaven. Other than the exceptional view along the extreme eastern edge of the South Face-East, which also ties to West-West of Blaze Canyon, it is probably best to view the South Face from road level (Fig. 7).

Figure 6.

Crescent Canyon. (A) Lateral accretion in channel complex 2 (CC-2), West Wall, Crescent Canyon. Rock packages 5–7 are labeled. (B) Deep incision (arrows) within CC-2, northeast face, East Bowl, Thompson Pass. (C) Incision near base of CC-2 (arrows), West Wall, Crescent Canyon. (D) Large-scale lateral accretion surfaces within rock package 7, West-Side Canyon, Crescent Canyon. Geologists (ovals) for scale.

Figure 6.

Crescent Canyon. (A) Lateral accretion in channel complex 2 (CC-2), West Wall, Crescent Canyon. Rock packages 5–7 are labeled. (B) Deep incision (arrows) within CC-2, northeast face, East Bowl, Thompson Pass. (C) Incision near base of CC-2 (arrows), West Wall, Crescent Canyon. (D) Large-scale lateral accretion surfaces within rock package 7, West-Side Canyon, Crescent Canyon. Geologists (ovals) for scale.

Figure 7.

Horse Heaven. (A) Portion of the Crescent Junction U.S. Geological Survey topographic map that highlights the location of Horse Heaven. Informal physiographic subdivisions include the Northwest Bowl, Southwest Bowl, and the South Face (West, Central, East). (B) Photo-panorama of the NW Bowl and SW Bowl of Horse Heaven. Camera position is from the top of the Castlegate Sandstone, along the NE Face of Christmas Ridge, looking east. Note the well-defined color bands in the Mancos Shale (Grassy Member equivalents). (C) Photo-panorama of the South Face, Horse Heaven. Camera position is along the old highway, looking north.

Figure 7.

Horse Heaven. (A) Portion of the Crescent Junction U.S. Geological Survey topographic map that highlights the location of Horse Heaven. Informal physiographic subdivisions include the Northwest Bowl, Southwest Bowl, and the South Face (West, Central, East). (B) Photo-panorama of the NW Bowl and SW Bowl of Horse Heaven. Camera position is from the top of the Castlegate Sandstone, along the NE Face of Christmas Ridge, looking east. Note the well-defined color bands in the Mancos Shale (Grassy Member equivalents). (C) Photo-panorama of the South Face, Horse Heaven. Camera position is along the old highway, looking north.

Two thick shallow-marine sandstone packages (5 and 6) are identified in the NW Bowl of Horse Heaven (Fig. 8), and these packages split into thinner sandstone beds (5ab, 6ac) toward the east-southeast (Figs. 9 and 10). The contact between the shallow-marine facies and overlying nonmarine (channels, coastal plain) facies are usually gradational, and are characterized by rooted foreshore sandstones passing stratigraphically upwards into channel or coastal plain facies. This is demonstrated by the “table-top” flat geometry of the shallow-marine sandstones over most of the Horse Heaven outcrop belt (Figs. 8 and 9). However, some meter-scale incisions occur in the upper portion of the shallow-marine package, especially along the top of rock package 6 in the NW Bowl and South Face-East of Horse Heaven (Figs. 8 and 12).

Two coal-rich zones are correlated within the cliff-forming sandstone package at Horse Heaven (Figs. 11 and 12). The Lower Coal zone caps the cliff-forming shallow-marine sandstones (5a-b, 6a-c) and thins to the east. This horizon is also marked by the sporadic outcropping of thin (meter-scale) heterolithic channel-fill deposits in the South Face-East of Horse Heaven to West of Blaze Canyon (Figs. 12 and 13). Van Wagoner (1995) interprets this layer as a high-frequency sequence boundary. Evidence here suggests a relatively gradational facies change from foreshore and upper shoreface sandstones into the overlying coastal plain deposits (coal, heterolithic channel-fill). The heterolithic channel-fill and coal might be indicative of tidal-estuarine conditions and marine flooding, respectively.

Figure 8.

Horse Heaven, Northwest Bowl. (A) Southeast Wall, Crescent Canyon, looking east. Rock packages 2–7 are labeled. Note that 5 and 6 split into smaller packages (5a-b, 6a-c). A prominent sandstone-rich channel, with basal incision, occurs in CC-2. NW Bowl, Horse Heaven is on the right in the background. (B) Northwest corner of the NW Bowl, Horse Heaven. Photo around the corner (east) and is adjacent to part A. (C) Shallow-marine rock packages 2–6, western portion of the NW Bowl, Horse Heaven. (D) Close-up photo showing the two thick shallow-marine rock packages (5 and 6) in the eastern portion of the NW Bowl, Horse Heaven. Person for scale (circle-arrow).

Figure 8.

Horse Heaven, Northwest Bowl. (A) Southeast Wall, Crescent Canyon, looking east. Rock packages 2–7 are labeled. Note that 5 and 6 split into smaller packages (5a-b, 6a-c). A prominent sandstone-rich channel, with basal incision, occurs in CC-2. NW Bowl, Horse Heaven is on the right in the background. (B) Northwest corner of the NW Bowl, Horse Heaven. Photo around the corner (east) and is adjacent to part A. (C) Shallow-marine rock packages 2–6, western portion of the NW Bowl, Horse Heaven. (D) Close-up photo showing the two thick shallow-marine rock packages (5 and 6) in the eastern portion of the NW Bowl, Horse Heaven. Person for scale (circle-arrow).

A sandstone-rich channel-fill succession topped by a white cap sandstone rests stratigraphically above the Lower Coal zone and is defined as rock package 7 (Figs. 912). Convolute bedded channel sandstones are observed in this package throughout the Crescent Canyon to Horse Heaven area. Rock package 7 is sporadically “fused/welded” onto the underlying shallow-marine sandstones in the SW Bowl (Fig. 9), and becomes permanently “fused/welded” onto the cliff-forming shallow-marine sandstones at the boundary between South Face-West and South Face-Central (Fig. 10C). Rock package 7 consists of channel-fill sandstones and heterolithics in the South Face-Central to South Face-East region of Horse Heaven, and these channel-fill deposits are neatly sandwiched by the Lower and Upper Coal zones (Figs. 11 and 12). The Upper Coal zone marks the top of rock package 7, thus explaining the presence of a prominent white cap (Fig. 9). Both the Upper Coal zone and the upper surface of rock package 7 marks the top of the Desert Member (Fig. 2).

Figure 9.

Horse Heaven, Southwest Bowl. (A) Photo-panorama covering the NW and SW bowls of Horse Heaven. Multi-storey channel complex 2 (CC-2) and shallow-marine (SM) deposits are labeled. Mound-like CC-2 (large white arrow) is used as a reference/tie-point in parts A and B. (B) Photo-panorama of the northwest corner of the SW Bowl, Horse Heaven, looking north. Two thick SM sandstone bodies (rock packages 5 and 6) are recognized, and these correlate with the thick sandstones in the NW Bowl. Person bending down for scale (black arrow-circle). Prominent white cap channel sandstone layer caps rock package 7. (C) Photo-panorama showing a stack of SM sandstone beds (5–6c) overlain by a channel-fill sandstone package (7) with white cap (arrows), east-central portion of SW Bowl, Horse Heaven. This channel-fill package is sporadically “fused/welded” onto the underlying SM sandstones in the SW Bowl region. Photo looks southeast.

Figure 9.

Horse Heaven, Southwest Bowl. (A) Photo-panorama covering the NW and SW bowls of Horse Heaven. Multi-storey channel complex 2 (CC-2) and shallow-marine (SM) deposits are labeled. Mound-like CC-2 (large white arrow) is used as a reference/tie-point in parts A and B. (B) Photo-panorama of the northwest corner of the SW Bowl, Horse Heaven, looking north. Two thick SM sandstone bodies (rock packages 5 and 6) are recognized, and these correlate with the thick sandstones in the NW Bowl. Person bending down for scale (black arrow-circle). Prominent white cap channel sandstone layer caps rock package 7. (C) Photo-panorama showing a stack of SM sandstone beds (5–6c) overlain by a channel-fill sandstone package (7) with white cap (arrows), east-central portion of SW Bowl, Horse Heaven. This channel-fill package is sporadically “fused/welded” onto the underlying SM sandstones in the SW Bowl region. Photo looks southeast.

The Upper Coal zone extends along the entire eastern edge of the cliff-forming South Face of Horse Heaven, and is an excellent marker bed for correlation (Figs. 46, 813). A multistorey channel complex (CC-2) outcrops sporadically throughout the Crescent Canyon to western Horse Heaven region (Fig. 8). In the extreme eastern part of the SW Bowl, CC-2 cuts into shallow-marine (SM) sandstones, thus forming a sandstone-rich SM/CC-2 rock package. These shallow-marine sandstones represent the lower portion of the Castlegate Sandstone (Fig. 2). The SM/CC-2 rock package consists of a variable thickness of shallow-marine sandstones that are incised by sandstone-and heterolithic-rich multi-storey channel-fill deposits (Figs. 11 and 12), and becomes permanently “fused/welded” onto the underlying sandstones at the boundary between South Face-Central and South Face-East (Fig. 11B). The “fusing/welding” of rock package SM/CC-2 occurs ~1.3 km basinward of the “fusing/welding” of rock package 7, leading to a significant thickening of the cliff-forming sandstones in the Desert Member to lower Castlegate Sandstone interval along the South Face region. Each layer was added rather conformably to the cliff-forming sandstones below, thus defining a stratigraphic “staircase” that rises to the east.

Stop 5. West-West and West of Blaze Canyon

West-West and West of Blaze Canyon comprise two separate stops, each within an unnamed canyon located east of Horse Heaven and west of Blaze Canyon (Fig. 1). The first stop will be an overview of the West-West of Blaze Canyon region, while the second stop will allow for examination of the strata at West of Blaze Canyon. The purpose of these stops is to examine the distribution and 3D sedimentary architecture of nonmarine and shallow-marine facies, and to extend the correlation framework that was established in the Crescent Canyon to Horse Heaven region, eastwards.

Figure 10.

Horse Heaven, South Face-West. (A) Entire South Face, Horse Heaven. Three informal physiographic zones are recognized: South Face-West, South Face-Central, South Face-East. Inset box shows the position on part C. (B) South Face-West, Horse Heaven. Desert Member rock packages 1–6 are highlighted. Underlying Mancos Shale color bands correspond to the Grassy Member and upper portion of the Sunnyside Member. Photo taken from the SE Bowl of Christmas Ridge, looking northeast. (C) Eastern edge of the South Face-West, Horse Heaven outcrop. Location shown in part A. Shallow-marine sandstone-rich rock packages (5–6) split into five smaller packages toward the east (5a–b, 6a–c). Note the iron-rich nodule-bearing layer within package 6a (elongated ovals). Top of the channel-rich package (arrows at the skyline) is equivalent to the white cap sandstone in the SW Bowl (i.e., rock package 7). Channel package becomes permanently “fused/welded” onto the top of the shallow-marine sandstones from this area, eastwards.

Figure 10.

Horse Heaven, South Face-West. (A) Entire South Face, Horse Heaven. Three informal physiographic zones are recognized: South Face-West, South Face-Central, South Face-East. Inset box shows the position on part C. (B) South Face-West, Horse Heaven. Desert Member rock packages 1–6 are highlighted. Underlying Mancos Shale color bands correspond to the Grassy Member and upper portion of the Sunnyside Member. Photo taken from the SE Bowl of Christmas Ridge, looking northeast. (C) Eastern edge of the South Face-West, Horse Heaven outcrop. Location shown in part A. Shallow-marine sandstone-rich rock packages (5–6) split into five smaller packages toward the east (5a–b, 6a–c). Note the iron-rich nodule-bearing layer within package 6a (elongated ovals). Top of the channel-rich package (arrows at the skyline) is equivalent to the white cap sandstone in the SW Bowl (i.e., rock package 7). Channel package becomes permanently “fused/welded” onto the top of the shallow-marine sandstones from this area, eastwards.

Figure 11.

Horse Heaven, South Face-Central. (A) Photo-panorama of the South Face (Central and East), Horse Heaven. Camera position on the old highway looking north. South Face-Central ridgeline is 1.3 km long (between two black arrows), while the South Face-East ridgeline is ~1.2 km long (between two black arrows). Inset rectangles show the position of part B, C, and D. (B) South Face-Central, Horse Heaven, photographed from the desert floor looking north. Shallow-marine (SM) rock packages 2, 3, 4, 5a–b, and 6a–c can be correlated beneath the lower coal bed (black arrows and labels). The lower coal caps rock package 6c and this coal thins to the east (right). Channel-fill sandstones and heterolithics of rock package 7 are sandwiched between the lower coal and upper coal(white arrows and labels), with the top of package 7 corresponding to the white cap channel sandstones observed throughout the SW Bowl of Horse Heaven. A sandstone-rich rock package (SM and CC-2) overlies the upper coal bed and becomes permanently “fused/welded” onto the underlying sandstone beds from this area, eastwards. Multi-storey channel complex-2 (CC-2). (C) South Face-Central, Horse Heaven, western side. Camera position on top looking west. (D) South Face-Central, eastern side. Camera position on top looking east.

Figure 11.

Horse Heaven, South Face-Central. (A) Photo-panorama of the South Face (Central and East), Horse Heaven. Camera position on the old highway looking north. South Face-Central ridgeline is 1.3 km long (between two black arrows), while the South Face-East ridgeline is ~1.2 km long (between two black arrows). Inset rectangles show the position of part B, C, and D. (B) South Face-Central, Horse Heaven, photographed from the desert floor looking north. Shallow-marine (SM) rock packages 2, 3, 4, 5a–b, and 6a–c can be correlated beneath the lower coal bed (black arrows and labels). The lower coal caps rock package 6c and this coal thins to the east (right). Channel-fill sandstones and heterolithics of rock package 7 are sandwiched between the lower coal and upper coal(white arrows and labels), with the top of package 7 corresponding to the white cap channel sandstones observed throughout the SW Bowl of Horse Heaven. A sandstone-rich rock package (SM and CC-2) overlies the upper coal bed and becomes permanently “fused/welded” onto the underlying sandstone beds from this area, eastwards. Multi-storey channel complex-2 (CC-2). (C) South Face-Central, Horse Heaven, western side. Camera position on top looking west. (D) South Face-Central, eastern side. Camera position on top looking east.

Figure 12.

Horse Heaven, South Face-East. (A) Panorama of the South Face-Central to South Face-East region, Horse Heaven. West-West of Blaze Canyon is located immediately to the east of the South Face outcrop. Inset rectangle shows the position of part C, inset trapeziums show the location of parts B and D. (B) South Face-East, Horse Heaven, western side. Location shown in part A. Rock packages 5a-b and 6a-c are labeled. Lower (black labels and arrows) and upper (white labels and arrows) coals bound rock package 7. SM (shallow marine), CC-2 (multistorey channel complex-2). The western edge of the South Face-Central outcrop is visible in the distance. (C) Photo-panorama from the South Face-East, Horse Heaven. Location shown in part A. Upper coal bed (white arrows and labels) extends to the eastern edge of the South Face. The lower coal bed horizon is also identified (black arrows) on the eastern half of the panorama and is marked by a heterolithic channel-fill (black stars). This horizon can be confidently correlated further east into West-West of Blaze Canyon, West of Blaze Canyon, and Blaze Canyon. An additional sandstone-rich layer occurs near the skyline and is “welded/fused” on top of the underlying sandstones (arrows and dashed line at base). (D) South Face-East, Horse Heaven, eastern side. Location shown in part A. Note that rock packages 5a, 5b, and 6a have an increase in mudstone toward the east.

Figure 12.

Horse Heaven, South Face-East. (A) Panorama of the South Face-Central to South Face-East region, Horse Heaven. West-West of Blaze Canyon is located immediately to the east of the South Face outcrop. Inset rectangle shows the position of part C, inset trapeziums show the location of parts B and D. (B) South Face-East, Horse Heaven, western side. Location shown in part A. Rock packages 5a-b and 6a-c are labeled. Lower (black labels and arrows) and upper (white labels and arrows) coals bound rock package 7. SM (shallow marine), CC-2 (multistorey channel complex-2). The western edge of the South Face-Central outcrop is visible in the distance. (C) Photo-panorama from the South Face-East, Horse Heaven. Location shown in part A. Upper coal bed (white arrows and labels) extends to the eastern edge of the South Face. The lower coal bed horizon is also identified (black arrows) on the eastern half of the panorama and is marked by a heterolithic channel-fill (black stars). This horizon can be confidently correlated further east into West-West of Blaze Canyon, West of Blaze Canyon, and Blaze Canyon. An additional sandstone-rich layer occurs near the skyline and is “welded/fused” on top of the underlying sandstones (arrows and dashed line at base). (D) South Face-East, Horse Heaven, eastern side. Location shown in part A. Note that rock packages 5a, 5b, and 6a have an increase in mudstone toward the east.

West-West of Blaze Canyon is located directly around the corner (east) from the South Face-East of Horse Heaven (Figs. 7A and 12A). Correlations can be seamlessly extended from the South Face of Horse Heaven into West-West of Blaze Canyon, where rock packages 3–7 and SM/CC-2 are clearly recognized (Fig. 13A). Desert Member shoreface sandstones (5 and 6) are extremely well developed at West-West of Blaze Canyon, forming the lowermost portion of the sandstone-rich cliff-forming succession (Fig. 13A). The amalgamated shallow-marine sandstones near the base of rock package 6 are occasionally sharp-based, defining a regressive surface of marine erosion. The top of rock package 6 is variably truncated by rock package 7 channels, with up to 5 m of incision along the West Wall of West-West of Blaze Canyon. Rock package 7 mostly consists of channel-fill deposits and has some large-scale, heterolithic-rich, lateral accretion surfaces, especially along the north and east walls. The top of rock package 7 is overlain by a thick Upper Coal zone, which in turn is overlain by the shallow-marine sandstones and multistorey channel-fill deposits (CC-2) of the lowermost Castlegate Sandstone. The shallow-marine sandstones are variably incised by the overlying Castlegate Sandstone channel complex CC-2 (Fig. 13A). In some areas this shoreface package is completely cut-out, leading to a channel-on-channel contact between the Castlegate (CC-2) and Desert channel complexes (rock package 7). CC-2 is characterized by a complex mixture of sandstone-, heterolithic- and mudstone-rich channel-fill deposits, and is overlain by at least, 20 m of interbedded nonmarine facies (single-and multi-storey channels, fine-grained coastal plain deposits, coals) throughout the mid to upper Castlegate Sandstone.

Figure 13.

(A) West-West of Blaze Canyon, East Wall. Rock packages 3–7, and the overlying SM (shallow marine) to CC-2 (multi-storey channel complex-2) are recognized. The top of 6 is highlighted by black arrows (i.e., time equivalent surface to the lower coal at Horse Heaven), while the top of 7 is marked by the upper coal bed (white arrows and labels). Rock package 7 has well-defined, large-scale, heterolithic-rich lateral accretion surfaces. (B) West of Blaze Canyon, East Wall. Similar rock packages as part A. Note that the top 6 horizon (black arrows) is characterized by thin channel-fill successions (stars), and that CC-2 entirely cuts out the SM package at a number of localities. Well-defined heterolithic channel-fill deposits occur in the upper part of package 7. (C) Blaze Canyon, East-Side Canyon. Similar stratigraphy to West-West and West of Blaze Canyon. Shallow-marine-dominated rock packages 3–6 are becoming muddier, while rock package 7 is dominated by heterolithic-rich channel-fill deposits, especially in the upper part of the package. Geologist for scale in upper left (thick arrow and circle). (D) Thompson Canyon, Northeast Wall. Package 7 has an abundance of sandstone-rich channel-fill facies, and is capped by a few meters of finer-grained, heterolithic-rich facies. (E) Sagers Canyon, North Wall. A significant basinward shift of facies occurs between Thompson Canyon to Sagers Canyon, which is predominantly recorded by the muddying of the shallow-marine rock packages (6, 7, SM), the extreme thinning of the channel-fill succession within package 7, and by the transition to a heterolithic-dominant fill in CC-2.

Figure 13.

(A) West-West of Blaze Canyon, East Wall. Rock packages 3–7, and the overlying SM (shallow marine) to CC-2 (multi-storey channel complex-2) are recognized. The top of 6 is highlighted by black arrows (i.e., time equivalent surface to the lower coal at Horse Heaven), while the top of 7 is marked by the upper coal bed (white arrows and labels). Rock package 7 has well-defined, large-scale, heterolithic-rich lateral accretion surfaces. (B) West of Blaze Canyon, East Wall. Similar rock packages as part A. Note that the top 6 horizon (black arrows) is characterized by thin channel-fill successions (stars), and that CC-2 entirely cuts out the SM package at a number of localities. Well-defined heterolithic channel-fill deposits occur in the upper part of package 7. (C) Blaze Canyon, East-Side Canyon. Similar stratigraphy to West-West and West of Blaze Canyon. Shallow-marine-dominated rock packages 3–6 are becoming muddier, while rock package 7 is dominated by heterolithic-rich channel-fill deposits, especially in the upper part of the package. Geologist for scale in upper left (thick arrow and circle). (D) Thompson Canyon, Northeast Wall. Package 7 has an abundance of sandstone-rich channel-fill facies, and is capped by a few meters of finer-grained, heterolithic-rich facies. (E) Sagers Canyon, North Wall. A significant basinward shift of facies occurs between Thompson Canyon to Sagers Canyon, which is predominantly recorded by the muddying of the shallow-marine rock packages (6, 7, SM), the extreme thinning of the channel-fill succession within package 7, and by the transition to a heterolithic-dominant fill in CC-2.

West of Blaze Canyon has a similar suite of sequence stratigraphic rock packages and surfaces as those observed at the previous field stops (i.e., Crescent Canyon to West-West of Blaze Canyon). Shallow-marine rock packages 3–6, and mixed shallow-marine-channel-rock packages 7 and SM/CC-2 are easily identified and correlated (Fig. 13B). These rock packages combine to form two progradational parasequence sets, with the lower set comprising parasequences 1–7, and the upper set comprising the SM/CC-2 package and all of the overlying nonmarine strata of the Castlegate Sandstone. The Upper Coal zone records the boundary between the two progradational parasequence sets, thus representing a regional flooding or landward shift of facies belts. The top of rock package 6 is marked by thin heterolithic channel-fills that are coincident with the thin channels and Lower Coal zone observed along the South Face-Central to South Face-East of Horse Heaven (Figs. 12C, 12D, and 13B). Rock package 7 is composed of varying amounts of shallow-marine sandstones that are sharply and erosively overlain by sandstone-and heterolithic-rich channel-fill deposits. These channels are characterized by large-scale (tens to hundred of meters long) lateral accretion surfaces, with exceptional examples of heterolithic to mudstone-rich channel facies in the upper part of this rock package. In places, package 7 channels cut down to the base of the rock package 6c. Rock package 7 is overlain by the Upper Coal zone, which is spectacularly exposed in the cliff-forming northern and eastern walls of this canyon. This marks the top of the Desert Member. Shallow-marine sandstones of the lowermost Castlegate Sandstone overlie the Upper Coal. These shallow-marine facies are variably truncated by the overlying multi-storey channel complex (CC-2) which is composed of sandstone and heterolithic, large-scale lateral accretion surfaces. In places, CC-2 entirely cuts out the SM package; however it does not appear to cut through the Upper Coal zone but rather “seats” onto the top of this interval (Fig. 13B).

Stop 6. Blaze Canyon

Blaze Canyon is ~1.4 km east of our previous stop (Fig. 1). Our purpose here is to examine the high-resolution sequence stratigraphy of the Desert-Castlegate interval and to compare with our observations from West-West and West of Blaze Canyon. A similar suite of facies, sequence stratigraphic rock packages and surfaces are observed at Blaze Canyon. The “big-picture” stratigraphy is delineated by a stack of two shallow-marine to channel-fill vertical facies successions, one each for the Desert and Castlegate. In the Desert Member, rock packages 3–7 stack to form a pro-gradational parasequence set which is capped by the Upper Coal zone (Fig. 13C). Compared to previous stops, the shallow-marine deposits in rock packages 3–6 are noticeably muddier and slightly thinner, with a greater portion of intervening heterolithic facies between the thick sandstone beds. However, the upper part of the shallow-marine package is composed of thickly bedded upper shoreface sandstones that rest sharply on top of lower shoreface to inner shelf heterolithics, forming a sharp-based shoreface. The topmost Desert Member (rock package 7) is marked by thick, heterolithic-rich, channel-fill successions that occur directly beneath a prominent coal (i.e., Upper Coal zone). This interval is characterized by large-scale lateral accretion surfaces and a pronounced fining-upward trend. Shallow-marine sandstones are abundant at a few localities (e.g., SE Wall of Blaze Canyon) in rock package 7, demarcating interfluve or intervalley areas. Van Wagoner (1995) interpreted the Desert channel-fill complex as an incised valley-fill that rests on top of the Desert sequence boundary. Both the large-scale channel architecture and the deep incision into the underlying shallow-marine sandstones argue for an incised valley-fill interpretation. The contact between the Desert Member and Castlegate Sandstone occurs at the Upper Coal zone, which is easily identified throughout the Blaze Canyon region by its thick development, coupled with the prominent white cap at the top of package 7. The lowermost Castlegate Sandstone consists of shallow-marine sandstones truncated by a multi-storey channel complex, CC-2 (Fig. 13C).

Stop 7. Thompson Canyon

Thompson Canyon is located ~3 km east of Blaze Canyon (Fig. 1). The best access for viewing the Desert-Castlegate stratigraphic interval is on the east side of the road across from the pictograph and petroglyph site. Beautiful exposures of sandstone-rich shallow-marine and channel-fill deposits occur at this stop, as well as some world-class outcrops of heterolithic-rich, incised valley-fill deposits with large-scale lateral accretion surfaces capped by carbonaceous-rich shales and coals (Fig. 13D). All key sequence stratigraphic rock packages and surfaces examined from Crescent Canyon to Blaze Canyon are visible at Thompson Canyon. From bottom to top this section includes lower shoreface heterolithics (rock package 5); thickly bedded upper shoreface sandstones (rock packages 6 and 7) with a regressive surface of marine erosion at the base; a sandstone-to heterolithic-rich channel-fill complex (rock package 7); interbedded carbonaceous-rich shales and coals (Upper Coal zone); thickly bedded upper shoreface sandstones (rock package SM); a multi-storey, sandstone-to heterolithic-rich channel-fill complex (rock package CC-2) (Fig. 13D). The Upper Coal zone marks the contact between the Desert Member and the overlying Castlegate Sandstone, which is coincident with the contact between the two progradational parasequence sets or shallow-marine to nonmarine vertical facies successions (Fig. 13D).

Stop 8. Sagers Canyon

Sagers Canyon is located ~8 km down-depositional-dip from Thompson Canyon (Fig. 1). We will have two stops here: one to examine the regional-scale changes in architecture within the Desert-Castlegate stratigraphic interval by viewing from the road side on the desert floor, and the second to examine the up-close sedimentological and stratigraphic details by climbing up the canyon slope. Our desert floor vantage point encompasses 13 km of depositional-dip-oriented Book Cliffs outcrop from Thompson Canyon in the west to Pinto Wash in the east. On a clear day, one can also see the edge of Corral Point to the east, which is an additional 14 km down-dip. This regional-scale field of view clearly shows the transition from the sandstone-rich shallow-marine and nonmarine sections in the west, to the heterolithic-and mudstone-dominated sections to the east. It also highlights the stack of two progradational parasequence sets (i.e., Desert Member packages 1–7; Castlegate SM/CC-2 to overlying nonmarine), and their ease of correlation along the dip-oriented outcrop belt.

Our second stop in this area involves a moderate climb up the Sagers Canyon scree slope to view the facies, stacking patterns and sequence stratigraphy of the Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone interval (Fig. 13E). In general, the Desert-Castlegate interval is shallow-marine-dominant and finer grained at Sagers Canyon compared to Thompson Canyon. Desert Member shoreface successions were sharp-based up-dip, but transition into gradationally based shoreface successions down-dip. From base to top, the main architectural elements observed in the Sagers Canyon region are: (i) distal Desert Member shoreface/deltaic parasequences (rock packages 1–7), which are mostly composed of lower shoreface heterolithics, (ii) thin (> 2 m) Desert Member channel-fill sandstones (top of rock package 7), (iii) Castlegate Sandstone shoreface/deltaic parasequences consisting of lower shoreface heterolithics with thin caps of upper shoreface sandstones (SM/CC-2 package), and (iv) a heterolithic-dominant Castlegate Sandstone channel-fill complex (CC-2 package) (Fig. 13E).

SEQUENCE STRATIGRAPHY

At least eight shelf to shoreface parasequences are identified in the Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval in the Crescent Canyon to Sagers Canyon area, and these are labeled as rock packages 1–7 and SM/CC-2 in this guidebook. Additional parasequences have been identified and correlated by Van Wagoner (1991, 1995) both to the east and west of the limited study area discussed herein. These parasequences stack to form two progradational parasequence sets (Pattison, 1994a, 1994b; Pattison et al., 2007b). The top of parasequence 7, which is capped by the Upper Coal zone, defines the contact between the two progradational parasequence sets, and also defines the contact between the Desert Member and Castlegate Sandstone.

Van Wagoner (1991, 1995) studied the Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone across a wide swath of eastern Utah and used a comprehensive descriptive foundation, which included 68 measured sections and numerous photo-panels, to build his sequence stratigraphic interpretation (Figs. 14 and 15). Van Wagoner (1995) clustered together all of the channel and coastal plain facies in the Desert-Castlegate interval, and separated them from all of the shallow-marine facies through the identification and correlation of two sequence boundaries (i.e., Desert SB and Castlegate SB). Van Wagoner (1991, 1995) also identified a number of “high-frequency” sequence boundaries at the tops of some parasequences. Two examples of “high-frequency” sequence boundaries are shown in Figure 16A, beneath the Desert SB. Van Wagoner (1995) used the Desert SB and Castlegate SB to subdivide the Desert-Castlegate strata into two broad rock packages: channel-coastal plain facies and shallow-marine facies (Figs. 14, 15, and 16A). By grouping all nonmarine to marginal-marine facies together, Van Wagoner’s (1995) interpretation of the nonmarine to marginal-marine facies belts more closely resembles a lithostratigraphic (i.e., similar lithologies lumped together) rather than a chronostratigraphic correlation (Fig. 14). According to Van Wagoner’s (1995) interpretation, high-energy braided river systems in the Desert-Castlegate interval did not deliver sediments to a coastline, but instead “petered-out” into a low energy coastal plain/lacustrine setting, prior to reaching the coastline. This model begs at least two questions. (i) How can a high-energy fluvial system (i.e., braided) be totally disconnected from a nearby shallow-marine system? (ii) Where are the time-equivalent nonmarine deposits for the Desert-Castlegate shallow-marine bodies? Van Wagoner’s (1995) interpretation shows absolutely no temporal or spatial relationship between the nonmarine and shallow-marine rock types in the Desert-Castlegate interval (Figs. 14 and 15), which is inconsistent with the field observations presented in this guidebook.

Alternative Interpretation

An alternative interpretation was first proposed by Nummedal et al. (1992) and Nummedal and Cole (1993) who suggested that the Desert Member and Castlegate Sandstone were deposited during falling sea level and that the shoreface and channel deposits were linked in both time and space. Further work by Plint and Nummedal (2000) and Nummedal et al. (2001) lead to the formal definition of the falling stage systems tract. Parasequences of the Desert Member and Castlegate Sandstone are excellent examples of falling stage systems tract (FSST) and/or attached lowstand systems tract (LSTa) deposits (Ainsworth and Pattison, 1994; Pattison, 1994a, 1994b, 1995, 2009; Pattison et al., 2007b).

Figure 14.

A comparison of two possible correlation styles for the Desert-Castlegate interval: “Sequence Stratigraphy Interpretation” and “Lithostratigraphy Interpretation” (Van Wagoner, 1995). Van Wagoner’s (1995) “Sequence Stratigraphy Interpretation” clusters all channel and coastal plain facies together, separating them both temporally and spatially from all shallow-marine facies further down-dip, thus resembling a lithostratigraphic (i.e., similar lithologies lumped together) rather than a chronostratigraphic correlation style. The mislabeled “Lithostratigraphy Interpretation” actually shows a chronostratigraphic correlation between the nonmarine (i.e., coal beds, multi-storey channel complexes) and shallow-marine (i.e., flooding surfaces, parasequence stacking patterns) sections, which is consistent with the field observations presented herein.

Figure 14.

A comparison of two possible correlation styles for the Desert-Castlegate interval: “Sequence Stratigraphy Interpretation” and “Lithostratigraphy Interpretation” (Van Wagoner, 1995). Van Wagoner’s (1995) “Sequence Stratigraphy Interpretation” clusters all channel and coastal plain facies together, separating them both temporally and spatially from all shallow-marine facies further down-dip, thus resembling a lithostratigraphic (i.e., similar lithologies lumped together) rather than a chronostratigraphic correlation style. The mislabeled “Lithostratigraphy Interpretation” actually shows a chronostratigraphic correlation between the nonmarine (i.e., coal beds, multi-storey channel complexes) and shallow-marine (i.e., flooding surfaces, parasequence stacking patterns) sections, which is consistent with the field observations presented herein.

The alternative interpretation that was originally proposed by Nummedal et al. (1992) and Nummedal and Cole (1993) was corroborated by Pattison (1994b), who argued that the channel-coastal plain and shoreface deposits of the Desert-Castlegate interval are separated by a series of “high-frequency” fluvial incision surfaces that combine to form a diachronous, lithostrati-graphic contact between the nonmarine and shallow-marine facies belts. Incised channels fed sediments to falling stage shorefaces that were located a few kilometers basinward. There is no evidence to suggest that there was large-scale sediment bypass to the east (i.e., Colorado) during Desert-Castlegate time. In addition, there is no evidence to suggest that Desert-Castlegate channels “petered-out” into a low energy coastal plain/lacustrine setting prior to reaching the coastline. Pattison (1994b) suggested that falling sea-level conditions progressively forced both the channel-coastal plain and shoreface deposits into the basin. Channels incised the top of previously deposited shallow-marine parasequences, producing a basinward shift of facies and a “high-frequency” sequence boundary at the top of each parasequence (Fig. 16B). “High-frequency” sequence boundaries (SB) are the parasequence-scale expression of falling stage. Each “high-frequency” sequence boundary is essentially restricted to its time equivalent chronostratigraphic rock package; however, some inter-package incision is expected (Figs. 16B and 17). It is also anticipated that the “high-frequency” SBs would merge together in areas of low accommodation space, such as the up-dip coastal plain sections, while down-dip, these surfaces would split and become visible. Channels were subsequently filled during small-scale flooding events that punctuated the overall drop in sea level (i.e., falling stage with superimposed flooding events). Parasequence-scale flooding events would trigger coastal plain aggradation and the landward translation of the shoreface.

Figure 15.

Two contrasting depositional environment and paleogeographic interpretations of the Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval: “Sequence Stratigraphy Interpretation” and “Lithostratigraphy Interpretation” (Van Wagoner, 1995). The “Sequence Stratigraphy Interpretation” shows no temporal or spatial relationship between the nonmarine and shallowmarine rock types. In contrast, the mislabeled “Lithostratigraphy Interpretation” links the nonmarine to shallow-marine facies in both time (i.e., chronostratigraphy) and space, through correlation of key marker beds (i.e., coals, stacked multi-storey channel complexes, marine flooding surfaces), and has the best fit with field observations presented herein.

Figure 15.

Two contrasting depositional environment and paleogeographic interpretations of the Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval: “Sequence Stratigraphy Interpretation” and “Lithostratigraphy Interpretation” (Van Wagoner, 1995). The “Sequence Stratigraphy Interpretation” shows no temporal or spatial relationship between the nonmarine and shallowmarine rock types. In contrast, the mislabeled “Lithostratigraphy Interpretation” links the nonmarine to shallow-marine facies in both time (i.e., chronostratigraphy) and space, through correlation of key marker beds (i.e., coals, stacked multi-storey channel complexes, marine flooding surfaces), and has the best fit with field observations presented herein.

Outcrop observations indicate that coastal plain/fluvial timelines pass basinward into shallow-marine marker horizons, thus establishing a chronostratigraphic correlation framework between these facies belts. Coastal plain to shallow-marine time equivalency is corroborated by (i) carbonaceous-shale and coal-rich zones correlating to marine flooding surfaces, and (ii) “high-frequency” sequence boundaries at the base of multistorey channel complexes correlating to regressive surfaces of marine erosion, sharp-based shorefaces, strongly progradational shallow-marine stacking patterns, and descending to flat regressive shoreline trajectories. Examples of the former include the Lower Coal zone correlating to the flooding surface at the top of rock package 6, and the Upper Coal zone correlating to the top of rock package 7. Examples of the latter include the large-scale lateral accretion surfaces (IVF) in the nonmarine rock packages 7 and CC-2, correlating with two strongly progradational packages of shallow-marine sandstones further down-dip (i.e., rock packages 7 and SM) that have sharp-bases marked by a regressive surface of marine erosion. These examples provide both a temporal and spatial linkage between the coastal plain/fluvial facies belts and the shallow-marine facies belts in the Desert to Castlegate stratigraphic interval (Fig. 16B). This alternative interpretation sheds new light on the interplay of depositional and erosional processes during falling sea level and lowstand events, leading to a significantly different prediction of the three-dimensional sedimentary architecture of falling stage and lowstand deposits (Fig. 17).

“Chrono-Slab” Model

The alternative interpretation presented herein is based on field observations in the Thompson Pass to Sagers Canyon region focused on the Desert Member to mid-Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval (Fig. 17). A high-resolution correlation has identified seven rock packages in the Desert Member (1–7) and at least one rock package in the overlying Castlegate Sandstone (SM/CC-2) (Fig. 17A). “High-frequency” sequence boundaries have been identified in the uppermost rock packages (5–7, SM/CC-2), and are anticipated in the underlying packages (1–4) further up-dip. Contrary to Van Wagoner (1995), the Desert SB, and likely the Castlegate SB do not represent timelines that temporally separate the nonmarine from the shallow-marine facies. Van Wagoner’s (1995) “Desert SB” cuts across the Lower Coal-Top 6 timeline in the Horse Heaven area (Fig. 17B). This indicates that the “Desert SB,” as Van Wagoner (1995) originally defined, is not a true timeline. The “Desert SB” is actually a composite surface that is composed of a series of “high-frequency” sequence boundaries that progressively developed over a period of time. The relative sea-level curve for the mid-Desert Member to mid-Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval shows both a longer term (i.e., Member-scale) and a superimposed shorter term (i.e., parasequence-scale) sea-level curve (Fig. 17C). Each “high-frequency” sequence boundary was cut during the falling stage portion of a “high-frequency” sea-level fall (i.e., parasequence-or chrono-slab-scale).

The correlation of the non-, marginal- and shallow-marine deposits indicates both a temporal and spatial relationship between these depositional systems during falling stage (Fig. 17). Each chronostratigraphic-slab (i.e., parasequence-scale equivalent) is characterized by sequence boundary development (down-cutting), shallow-marine forced regression, and minor coastal plain aggradation during the falling limb of the sea-level curve, followed by shallow-marine flooding surface development, valley in-filling, coastal plain aggradation, and regional coal deposition during the rising limb of the sea-level curve. Most incision envelopes are generally restricted to within the “chrono-slab”; however, some examples of inter-slab incision are also observed, such as rock package 7 cutting into rock package 6c along the South Face-East of Horse Heaven to West of Blaze Canyon region, and rock package CC-2 cutting into rock package 7 at West of Blaze Canyon. These incisions are relatively minor in the shallow-marine-dominated section (i.e., <3 m), but are likely to be more significant in lower accommodation settings, such as the coastal plain facies belt further west. In these settings, it is likely that the multi-storey channel-fill complexes would incise through one or more of the thinner, nonmarine-facies-dominated, chrono-slabs.

The chrono-slab/parasequence-scale model is shown as a schematic cross section that is oriented west to east (up-dip to down-dip) highlighting four facies belts or zones: Zones I to IV (Fig. 17D). Note that chrono-slabs show both thickening and thinning trends, with the maximum thickness tied to the zone with the thickest stack of incised valley-fill and proximal shallow-marine sandstones (Zone III).

Zone I is dominated by nonmarine, coastal plain deposits and single storey channel-fill successions, with (Zone I-a) or without (Zone I-b) a multi-storey channel-fill complex. This is the thinnest chrono-slab zone which likely reflects the reduced accommodation space in nonmarine settings during falling stage conditions (Fig. 17D).

Zone II is characterized by large-scale, multi-storey channel-fill successions (i.e., incised valley-fill deposits) with sandstone- and/or heterolithic-rich deposits and large-scale lateral accretion surfaces (Fig. 17D). These incised valley-fill (IVF) deposits are underlain by a “high-frequency” sequence boundary, and are up to an order of magnitude wider than the single-storey channels observed in the Zone I nonmarine facies belt. Zone II generally is a sandstone-rich, cliff-forming package that is “fused/welded” onto the underlying chrono-slabs.

Figure 16.

Portion of Van Wagoner’s (1995) regional cross section that documents sequence stratigraphy and facies distribution in the Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone interval, from Crescent Junction (section 18) to Thompson Canyon (section 25). Vertical scale on measured sections marks 5 foot intervals, with thickness recorded every 10 feet. (A) Original version (Van Wagoner, 1995) highlighting the correlation of the Desert Sequence Boundary (SB) and the Castlegate SB. (B) Modified version with superimposed terminology from this study: rock package numbers (1–7), coal beds (lower, upper), shallow marine (SM), multi-storey channel complex-2 (CC-2), regressive surface of marine erosion (RSME), and white cap (WC) sandstone. The Upper Coal zone/top of rock package 7 marks the contact between the Desert Member and overlying Castlegate Sandstone. All sequence boundaries are “high frequency.” There is an increased likelihood of merging and amalgamation of high-frequency SBs both updip (west) and up-section (Castlegate). The opposite, splitting of high-frequency SBs, is more likely down-dip (east) and down-section (Desert). Legend applies to part B only.

Figure 16.

Portion of Van Wagoner’s (1995) regional cross section that documents sequence stratigraphy and facies distribution in the Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone interval, from Crescent Junction (section 18) to Thompson Canyon (section 25). Vertical scale on measured sections marks 5 foot intervals, with thickness recorded every 10 feet. (A) Original version (Van Wagoner, 1995) highlighting the correlation of the Desert Sequence Boundary (SB) and the Castlegate SB. (B) Modified version with superimposed terminology from this study: rock package numbers (1–7), coal beds (lower, upper), shallow marine (SM), multi-storey channel complex-2 (CC-2), regressive surface of marine erosion (RSME), and white cap (WC) sandstone. The Upper Coal zone/top of rock package 7 marks the contact between the Desert Member and overlying Castlegate Sandstone. All sequence boundaries are “high frequency.” There is an increased likelihood of merging and amalgamation of high-frequency SBs both updip (west) and up-section (Castlegate). The opposite, splitting of high-frequency SBs, is more likely down-dip (east) and down-section (Desert). Legend applies to part B only.

Figure 17.

Alternative interpretation of the Desert-Castlegate stratigraphic interval based on field observations in the Thompson Pass to Sagers Canyon region. (A) High-resolution correlation. Rock packages 4–7 of the upper Desert Member, and SM (shallow marine) to CC-2 (multi-storey channel complex-2) of the lower Castlegate Sandstone. LAS (lateral accretion surface), N:G (net to gross ratio), WC (white cap), RSME (regressive surface of marine erosion). (B) Van Wagoner’s (1995) “Desert Sequence Boundary” cuts across the Lower Coal-Top 6 timeline in the Horse Heaven area, thus indicating that the “Desert SB” is not a true timeline. (C) Relative sea-level curve for the mid-Desert Member to mid-Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval, showing a longer term, Member-scale sea-level curve (dashed line) with a superimposed shorter term, parasequence-scale sea-level curve (solid line). Relative timing of rock packages 4–7 and SM are shown, as is the cutting of the “high-frequency” sequence boundaries (HF-SB) during the falling limbs of sea level. Van Wagoner’s (1995) Desert SB and Castlegate SB are actually composite surfaces that are comprised of numerous HF-SBs, as shown. (D) “Chrono-slab”/parasequence-scale model. Schematic cross section is oriented west to east and highlights four main facies belts or zones. Zone I: Nonmarine facies belt with fine-grained coastal plain deposits and single storey channel-fill successions, with (I-a) or without (I-b) multi-storey channel-fill complexes. Zone II: Large-scale, multistorey channel-fill successions (IVFs). Zone III: Transition between IVF/coastal plain and shallow-marine facies belts, which has an erosive (III-a) or conformable (III-b) contact determined by valley or inter-valley setting. Zone IV: Shallow-marine parasequences. MS (multi-storey channel complex), CP (coastal plain).

Figure 17.

Alternative interpretation of the Desert-Castlegate stratigraphic interval based on field observations in the Thompson Pass to Sagers Canyon region. (A) High-resolution correlation. Rock packages 4–7 of the upper Desert Member, and SM (shallow marine) to CC-2 (multi-storey channel complex-2) of the lower Castlegate Sandstone. LAS (lateral accretion surface), N:G (net to gross ratio), WC (white cap), RSME (regressive surface of marine erosion). (B) Van Wagoner’s (1995) “Desert Sequence Boundary” cuts across the Lower Coal-Top 6 timeline in the Horse Heaven area, thus indicating that the “Desert SB” is not a true timeline. (C) Relative sea-level curve for the mid-Desert Member to mid-Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval, showing a longer term, Member-scale sea-level curve (dashed line) with a superimposed shorter term, parasequence-scale sea-level curve (solid line). Relative timing of rock packages 4–7 and SM are shown, as is the cutting of the “high-frequency” sequence boundaries (HF-SB) during the falling limbs of sea level. Van Wagoner’s (1995) Desert SB and Castlegate SB are actually composite surfaces that are comprised of numerous HF-SBs, as shown. (D) “Chrono-slab”/parasequence-scale model. Schematic cross section is oriented west to east and highlights four main facies belts or zones. Zone I: Nonmarine facies belt with fine-grained coastal plain deposits and single storey channel-fill successions, with (I-a) or without (I-b) multi-storey channel-fill complexes. Zone II: Large-scale, multistorey channel-fill successions (IVFs). Zone III: Transition between IVF/coastal plain and shallow-marine facies belts, which has an erosive (III-a) or conformable (III-b) contact determined by valley or inter-valley setting. Zone IV: Shallow-marine parasequences. MS (multi-storey channel complex), CP (coastal plain).

Zone III records the transition from the IVF-coastal plain facies belt into the sandstone-rich proximal shallow-marine facies belt. This contact is erosive within a valley (Zone III-a) and conformable in the inter-valley region (Zone III-b). Excellent examples of both erosive and conformable contacts are documented in rock package 7 along the SE Wall of Blaze Canyon.

Zone IV is fully marine and is characterized by a progradational stack of shallow-marine parasequences. Both forced (i.e., sharp-based) and normal regressive (i.e., gradationally based) shorefaces are observed, with the former being characterized by a basal erosional surface (i.e., regressive surface of marine erosion) timed to the development of the “high-frequency” sequence boundary further up-dip (Figs. 17C and 17D).

Along-strike variability is expected. A dip-oriented transect through main fluvial feeders or valleys would show a progressive transition from zones I-a to II to III-a to IV, with a sandstone-rich nonmarine to marginal-marine facies belt characterized large-scale lateral accretion, inter-channel erosion, and a sharp/erosive contact with the shallow marine. In contrast, a dip-oriented transect through the inter-valley portions of the coastal plain would likely show a progressive transition from Zones I-b to III-b to IV, with an abundance of single-storey channel-fills, a paucity of large-scale multi-storey channel-fills, and a dominantly conformable contact (i.e., rooted) between the shallow-marine sandstones and overlying nonmarine facies belts.

The chrono-slab model is based on an amalgamation of observations from all Desert-Castlegate rock packages in the Thompson Pass to Sagers Canyon region and is likely applicable to falling stage deposits worldwide, especially those within a foreland basin setting. Further research will examine and identify the trends within each chrono-slab layer in the Desert-Castlegate interval by extending the observations both to the west (up-dip) and to the east (down-dip) of the study area. One working hypothesis currently being tested is whether individual chrono-slabs show any differences that can be linked to the relative sea-level change, such as the shape of the relative sea-level curve and/or the duration of the high-resolution falling versus rising sea-level stages. A high-resolution correlation of the shallow-marine deposits will assist in unraveling the relative sea-level curve, which in turn will be used to examine the differences in chrono-slab character. Potential differences include the depth of incision, the length of a facies belt/zone, the number of facies belts/zones, and the thickness of each chrono-slab. It is also anticipated that patterns may be linked to accommodation space and relative sea-level history, and these may cluster into early falling stage, late falling stage, and terminal lowstand groups. Research is ongoing to address these questions.

CONCLUSIONS

  1. 1.

    Nonmarine and shallow-marine facies belts within the Desert-Castlegate interval are linked in time (i.e., chronostratigraphy) and space, as demonstrated via the correlation of key marker beds or surfaces (i.e., coals, marine flooding surfaces) and rock packages (i.e., stacked multi-storey channel complexes, falling stage shoreface successions, descending regressive shoreline trajectories) in the Thompson Pass to Sagers Canyon region.

  2. 2.

    A sequence boundary is a complex, multifaceted erosional surface that develops over an extended period of time during a longer term drop in sea level. The traditional definition of a sequence boundary is clearly time-transgressive, as a SB is developed and modified during the entire falling limb of the sea-level curve. Detailed inspection of the “Desert SB” has revealed an amalgamation of “high-frequency” sequence boundaries that merge and split in a complex manner, with each “high-frequency” surface representing a shorter term portion of the falling sea-level curve (i.e., parasequence-scale relative falls in sea level). The traditional definition of a sequence boundary should be re-examined in the light of these observations.

  3. 3.

    A chrono-slab model is used to summarize the parasequence-scale relationship between nonmarine and shallow-marine strata during falling stage conditions. “High-frequency” sequence boundary development (down-cutting), shallow-marine forced regression, and minor coastal plain aggradation occurs during the falling limb of the sea-level curve. This is followed by shallow-marine flooding surface development, valley in-filling, coastal plain aggradation, and regional coal deposition during the rising limb of the sea-level curve.

  4. 4.

    The chrono-slab, parasequence-scale model has four facies belts or zones. Zone I is nonmarine with single storey channel-fill successions, with (I-a) or without (I-b) multi-storey channel-fill complexes. Zone II is composed of large-scale, multistorey channel-fill successions (IVFs). Zone III is represented by the transition from IVF/coastal plain to shallow marine, which is erosive (III-a) or conformable (III-b). Zone IV is dominated by shallow-marine parasequences.

  5. 5.

    The chrono-slab model is likely applicable to falling stage deposits worldwide, especially those within a foreland basin setting.

APPENDIX

Day 1 Road Log

Cumulative
mi(km)Description
0.0(0.0)Depart the Clarion Inn in Grand Junction. Turn right on Horizon Drive (south).
0.1(0.2)Turn right at traffic lights onto I-70. Drive west.
34.4(55.4)Utah-Colorado border. Continue driving west on I-70.
78.9(127.0)Exit I-70 and park at the rest stop. Stop 1—Thompson Overview.
78.9(127.0)Continue driving west.
92.9(149.5)Exit I-70 at Ranch Exit 175 and drive north and west on the old highway.
93.1(149.8)Turn right (north) onto the Floy Canyon road (note the sign).
93.3(150.1)Stop before crossing the railway tracks. This is a non-signaled “level crossing,” which is very active with railway traffic. Proceed with caution. Continue driving north.
96.9(155.9)Take the left-hand fork and continue driving north.
99.2(159.6)Turn right onto a dirt track and drive east.
100.5(161.7)Park vehicles at the Blaze A-1 well. Stop 2A—The Basin.
100.5(161.7)Retrace route. Drive west.
101.8(163.8)Turn right at the T-junction and drive north.
103.7(166.9)Park the vehicles. Stop 2B—The Basin.
103.7(166.9)Retrace route back to the highway. Drive south.
107.9(173.6)Turn right at the T-junction. Continue driving south.
111.5(179.4)Stop at railway tracks. Proceed with caution.
111.7(179.7)Turn left (east) onto the old highway.
111.9(180.0)Enter I-70 westbound. Drive westbound to Green River.
122.9(197.7)Exit I-70. Turn north toward Green River. Drive north and west on Main Street.
124.2(199.8)Overnight at the Comfort Inn.
Cumulative
mi(km)Description
0.0(0.0)Depart the Clarion Inn in Grand Junction. Turn right on Horizon Drive (south).
0.1(0.2)Turn right at traffic lights onto I-70. Drive west.
34.4(55.4)Utah-Colorado border. Continue driving west on I-70.
78.9(127.0)Exit I-70 and park at the rest stop. Stop 1—Thompson Overview.
78.9(127.0)Continue driving west.
92.9(149.5)Exit I-70 at Ranch Exit 175 and drive north and west on the old highway.
93.1(149.8)Turn right (north) onto the Floy Canyon road (note the sign).
93.3(150.1)Stop before crossing the railway tracks. This is a non-signaled “level crossing,” which is very active with railway traffic. Proceed with caution. Continue driving north.
96.9(155.9)Take the left-hand fork and continue driving north.
99.2(159.6)Turn right onto a dirt track and drive east.
100.5(161.7)Park vehicles at the Blaze A-1 well. Stop 2A—The Basin.
100.5(161.7)Retrace route. Drive west.
101.8(163.8)Turn right at the T-junction and drive north.
103.7(166.9)Park the vehicles. Stop 2B—The Basin.
103.7(166.9)Retrace route back to the highway. Drive south.
107.9(173.6)Turn right at the T-junction. Continue driving south.
111.5(179.4)Stop at railway tracks. Proceed with caution.
111.7(179.7)Turn left (east) onto the old highway.
111.9(180.0)Enter I-70 westbound. Drive westbound to Green River.
122.9(197.7)Exit I-70. Turn north toward Green River. Drive north and west on Main Street.
124.2(199.8)Overnight at the Comfort Inn.

Day 2 Road Log

Cumulative
mi(km)Description
0.0(0.0)Exit the Comfort Inn parking lot. Turn left on Main Street. Drive east.
1.3(2.1)Turn eastbound on I-70.
19.3(31.1)Exit I-70 at Crescent Junction (Exit 182). Turn north on Highway, 191 for Crescent Junction.
19.4(31.2)Turn right (east) along old highway past the gas station.
19.6(31.5)Turn left (north).
19.7(31.7)Stop at railway tracks. Proceed with caution. Drive north.
19.8(31.9)Take left hand dirt track to Crescent Canyon. Drive west and north.
22.0(35.4)Turn right onto Crescent Canyon dirt track. Drive north-northeast.
24.4(39.3)Base of steep hill/switchback. Check road conditions before proceeding. Drive carefully north.
24.8(39.9)Park vehicles just past the cattle-guard. Stop 3—Crescent Canyon.
24.8(39.9)Continue to drive north. Be careful. This road is narrow.
25.5(41.0)Take right-hand fork. Drive north and east.
26.2(42.2)Head of Crescent Canyon. Continue driving east and south.
29.0(46.7)Park vehicles by the side of the road. Stop 4—Horse Heaven.
29.0(46.7)Continue driving east.
29.8(47.9)Park vehicles on the side of the dirt track and walk 100 m to the east. Stop 5A—West-West of Blaze Canyon.
29.8(47.9)Continue driving east.
31.3(50.4)Park vehicles on the side of the dirt track and walk 250 m east. Stop 5B—West of Blaze Canyon.
31.3(50.4)Retrace route to Blaze Canyon parking spot. Drive east on dirt track.
34.2(55.0)Blaze Canyon parking spot. Stop 6—Blaze Canyon.
34.2(55.0)Continue driving east on dirt track.
38.2(61.5)Turn right on dirt road and travel down Thompson Canyon.
39.0(62.8)Petroglyph and pictograph site. Continue driving south.
42.1(67.7)Cross railway tracks in Thompson Springs and continue driving south.
43.4(69.8)Turn right and enter I-70 westbound. Drive west to Green River.
66.4(106.8)Exit I-70. Turn north toward Green River. Drive north and west on Main Street.
67.7(108.9)Overnight at the Comfort Inn.
Cumulative
mi(km)Description
0.0(0.0)Exit the Comfort Inn parking lot. Turn left on Main Street. Drive east.
1.3(2.1)Turn eastbound on I-70.
19.3(31.1)Exit I-70 at Crescent Junction (Exit 182). Turn north on Highway, 191 for Crescent Junction.
19.4(31.2)Turn right (east) along old highway past the gas station.
19.6(31.5)Turn left (north).
19.7(31.7)Stop at railway tracks. Proceed with caution. Drive north.
19.8(31.9)Take left hand dirt track to Crescent Canyon. Drive west and north.
22.0(35.4)Turn right onto Crescent Canyon dirt track. Drive north-northeast.
24.4(39.3)Base of steep hill/switchback. Check road conditions before proceeding. Drive carefully north.
24.8(39.9)Park vehicles just past the cattle-guard. Stop 3—Crescent Canyon.
24.8(39.9)Continue to drive north. Be careful. This road is narrow.
25.5(41.0)Take right-hand fork. Drive north and east.
26.2(42.2)Head of Crescent Canyon. Continue driving east and south.
29.0(46.7)Park vehicles by the side of the road. Stop 4—Horse Heaven.
29.0(46.7)Continue driving east.
29.8(47.9)Park vehicles on the side of the dirt track and walk 100 m to the east. Stop 5A—West-West of Blaze Canyon.
29.8(47.9)Continue driving east.
31.3(50.4)Park vehicles on the side of the dirt track and walk 250 m east. Stop 5B—West of Blaze Canyon.
31.3(50.4)Retrace route to Blaze Canyon parking spot. Drive east on dirt track.
34.2(55.0)Blaze Canyon parking spot. Stop 6—Blaze Canyon.
34.2(55.0)Continue driving east on dirt track.
38.2(61.5)Turn right on dirt road and travel down Thompson Canyon.
39.0(62.8)Petroglyph and pictograph site. Continue driving south.
42.1(67.7)Cross railway tracks in Thompson Springs and continue driving south.
43.4(69.8)Turn right and enter I-70 westbound. Drive west to Green River.
66.4(106.8)Exit I-70. Turn north toward Green River. Drive north and west on Main Street.
67.7(108.9)Overnight at the Comfort Inn.

Day 3 Road Log

Cumulative
mi(km)Description
0.0(0.0)Exit the Comfort Inn parking lot. Turn left onto Main Street. Drive east and south toward I-70.
1.3(2.1)Turn eastbound on I-70. Drive east.
19.2(30.9)Crescent Junction. Continue driving east on I-70.
24.2(39.0)Exit I-70 at Exit 187 and drive north through Thompson Springs.
25.5(41.1)Cross railway tracks in Thompson Springs and continue driving north.
28.6(46.0)Picnic site with petroglyphs and pictographs. Stop 7—Thompson Canyon.
28.6(46.0)Retrace route back to I-70.
31.7(51.0)Railway tracks in Thompson. Continue driving south.
33.0(53.1)Turn eastbound on I-70.
38.8(62.4)Exit I-70 at Ranch Exit, 193.
39.1(62.9)Turn left and drive north on a bridge over I-70.
39.8(64.0)Turn right at the T-junction and drive east along the old highway.
40.3(64.8)Turn left onto the Sagers Canyon road. Drive north.
41.5(66.8)Dirt road drops into Sagers Wash and passes underneath the railway tracks. Continue driving north.
43.6(70.2)Park the vehicles and view the 13-km-long, depositional-dip-oriented section. Stop 8A—Sagers Canyon Overview.
43.6(70.2)Continue driving north into Sagers Canyon.
45.7(73.5)Park the vehicles and climb the scree slope to examine the Desert-Castlegate stratigraphic interval. Stop 8B—Sagers Canyon.
45.7(73.5)Retrace route back to I-70.
49.9(80.3)Railway bridge. Continue driving south.
51.1(82.2)Turn right onto old highway. Drive west.
51.6(83.0)Turn left onto I-70 access road. Drive south.
52.3(84.2)Bridge over I-70.
52.4(84.3)Take eastbound merge lane for I-70. Drive east on I-70.
92.1(148.2)Utah-Colorado border. Continue driving east on I-70.
126.4(203.4)Horizon Drive Exit in Grand Junction. Turn left at traffic lights (north) onto Horizon Drive.
126.7(203.9)Turn left into the Clarion Inn parking lot, Grand Junction.
Cumulative
mi(km)Description
0.0(0.0)Exit the Comfort Inn parking lot. Turn left onto Main Street. Drive east and south toward I-70.
1.3(2.1)Turn eastbound on I-70. Drive east.
19.2(30.9)Crescent Junction. Continue driving east on I-70.
24.2(39.0)Exit I-70 at Exit 187 and drive north through Thompson Springs.
25.5(41.1)Cross railway tracks in Thompson Springs and continue driving north.
28.6(46.0)Picnic site with petroglyphs and pictographs. Stop 7—Thompson Canyon.
28.6(46.0)Retrace route back to I-70.
31.7(51.0)Railway tracks in Thompson. Continue driving south.
33.0(53.1)Turn eastbound on I-70.
38.8(62.4)Exit I-70 at Ranch Exit, 193.
39.1(62.9)Turn left and drive north on a bridge over I-70.
39.8(64.0)Turn right at the T-junction and drive east along the old highway.
40.3(64.8)Turn left onto the Sagers Canyon road. Drive north.
41.5(66.8)Dirt road drops into Sagers Wash and passes underneath the railway tracks. Continue driving north.
43.6(70.2)Park the vehicles and view the 13-km-long, depositional-dip-oriented section. Stop 8A—Sagers Canyon Overview.
43.6(70.2)Continue driving north into Sagers Canyon.
45.7(73.5)Park the vehicles and climb the scree slope to examine the Desert-Castlegate stratigraphic interval. Stop 8B—Sagers Canyon.
45.7(73.5)Retrace route back to I-70.
49.9(80.3)Railway bridge. Continue driving south.
51.1(82.2)Turn right onto old highway. Drive west.
51.6(83.0)Turn left onto I-70 access road. Drive south.
52.3(84.2)Bridge over I-70.
52.4(84.3)Take eastbound merge lane for I-70. Drive east on I-70.
92.1(148.2)Utah-Colorado border. Continue driving east on I-70.
126.4(203.4)Horizon Drive Exit in Grand Junction. Turn left at traffic lights (north) onto Horizon Drive.
126.7(203.9)Turn left into the Clarion Inn parking lot, Grand Junction.

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Acknowledgments

Data for this field guidebook has been collected over the past two decades. Early funding was provided through a KSEPL (Shell Research) and SPDC (Shell) Nigeria sponsored Senior Research Fellowship at the University of Aberdeen. Recent funding has been generously provided through Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grants 238532–2001 and 238532–2008, and via a Shell International (Houston) research grant. I would like to thank Huw Williams and Paul Davies for sharing their knowledge about Desert-Castlegate strata among other observations during various field visits to the Book Cliffs. Ideas have been sharpened through discussions with over 500 industry and academic-based colleagues during Book Cliffs field seminars. I thank field assistants Jess Peat, Jenna Phillips, Steve Saban, and Jill Stewart for their dedication and hard work during some extremely hot days in the field. And lastly but most importantly, I would like to thank Jill, Liam, and Laura for their unfailing love and support as I spent many long weeks and months doing field work in my home away from home! This manuscript is dedicated to you.

Figures & Tables

Figure 1.

Location map showing field stops. Locations are abbreviated as follows: BB—Battleship Butte; BCB—Blue Castle Butte; MM—Middle Mountain; GB—Gunnison Butte; GV—Gunnison Valley; TC—Tusher Canyon; CC—Coal Canyon; SC—Stub Canyon; CCB—Coal Canyon Bench; UC—Unnamed Canyon; HC-S—Horse Canyon South; HsM—Horse Mesa; HM—Hatch Mesa; FW—Floy Wash; CR—Christmas Ridge; FC—Floy Canyon; CrC—Crescent Canyon; HH—Horse Heaven; BzC—Blaze Canyon; ThC—Thompson Canyon; StW—Salt Wash; BW—Bootlegger Wash; SgC— Sagers Canyon; SgW—Sagers Wash; Pinto Wash—PW; and Corral Point—CP). Location of Crescent Canyon (Fig. 3) and Horse Heaven (Fig. 7A) high-resolution maps are shown by labeled boxes. Inset maps show the location of the study area in Utah. SLC—Salt Lake City.

Figure 1.

Location map showing field stops. Locations are abbreviated as follows: BB—Battleship Butte; BCB—Blue Castle Butte; MM—Middle Mountain; GB—Gunnison Butte; GV—Gunnison Valley; TC—Tusher Canyon; CC—Coal Canyon; SC—Stub Canyon; CCB—Coal Canyon Bench; UC—Unnamed Canyon; HC-S—Horse Canyon South; HsM—Horse Mesa; HM—Hatch Mesa; FW—Floy Wash; CR—Christmas Ridge; FC—Floy Canyon; CrC—Crescent Canyon; HH—Horse Heaven; BzC—Blaze Canyon; ThC—Thompson Canyon; StW—Salt Wash; BW—Bootlegger Wash; SgC— Sagers Canyon; SgW—Sagers Wash; Pinto Wash—PW; and Corral Point—CP). Location of Crescent Canyon (Fig. 3) and Horse Heaven (Fig. 7A) high-resolution maps are shown by labeled boxes. Inset maps show the location of the study area in Utah. SLC—Salt Lake City.

Figure 2.

(A) Scaled-stratigraphic, dip-oriented cross section of the Castlegate Sandstone, Blackhawk Formation, Star Point Formation, and Mancos Shale interval in the Book Cliffs region of east-central Utah (modified from Young, 1955; Balsley, 1980; Cole et al., 1997; Hettinger and Kirschbaum, 2002). Member boundaries have been extended eastward into the Mancos Shale using high-resolution outcrop and subsurface correlations (Pattison, 2005a, 2005b, 2005c). BH CP’Blackhawk Formation coastal plain; C. Ss.’Castlegate Sandstone. Key field stop areas are shown along the top. (B) Thompson rest stop overview. Photo-panorama looking north toward the Book Cliffs. Field of view is ~5 km. The Castlegate Sandstone and Desert Member (Blackhawk Formation) combine to form the distinct cliff line in the foreground. These sandstone-rich units are underlain by the distal Grassy Member (Blackhawk Formation), which rests on top of over 1000 m of Mancos Shale. Younger stratigraphic units overlying the Castlegate Sandstone are the Buck Tongue (Mancos Shale), Sego Sandstone, and Neslen Formation. (C) Trough Spring Ridge, South Face. This marks the southern boundary of The Basin. (D) and (E) A thick package of fluvial and coastal plain deposits (Desert Member and Castlegate Sandstone) rest stratigraphically above Desert Member shallow-marine deposits. Note the differences in terrestrial facies stacking patterns that occur over short distances (i.e., 350 m apart). (F) The Basin. Sedimentary architecture and correlation of coastal plain and channel packages. CC’multi-storey channel complex. Panorama looks SW to NW.

Figure 2.

(A) Scaled-stratigraphic, dip-oriented cross section of the Castlegate Sandstone, Blackhawk Formation, Star Point Formation, and Mancos Shale interval in the Book Cliffs region of east-central Utah (modified from Young, 1955; Balsley, 1980; Cole et al., 1997; Hettinger and Kirschbaum, 2002). Member boundaries have been extended eastward into the Mancos Shale using high-resolution outcrop and subsurface correlations (Pattison, 2005a, 2005b, 2005c). BH CP’Blackhawk Formation coastal plain; C. Ss.’Castlegate Sandstone. Key field stop areas are shown along the top. (B) Thompson rest stop overview. Photo-panorama looking north toward the Book Cliffs. Field of view is ~5 km. The Castlegate Sandstone and Desert Member (Blackhawk Formation) combine to form the distinct cliff line in the foreground. These sandstone-rich units are underlain by the distal Grassy Member (Blackhawk Formation), which rests on top of over 1000 m of Mancos Shale. Younger stratigraphic units overlying the Castlegate Sandstone are the Buck Tongue (Mancos Shale), Sego Sandstone, and Neslen Formation. (C) Trough Spring Ridge, South Face. This marks the southern boundary of The Basin. (D) and (E) A thick package of fluvial and coastal plain deposits (Desert Member and Castlegate Sandstone) rest stratigraphically above Desert Member shallow-marine deposits. Note the differences in terrestrial facies stacking patterns that occur over short distances (i.e., 350 m apart). (F) The Basin. Sedimentary architecture and correlation of coastal plain and channel packages. CC’multi-storey channel complex. Panorama looks SW to NW.

Figure 3.

Crescent Canyon. Merged U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps (Floy Canyon South and Crescent Junction) showing the Thompson Pass, Crescent Canyon, and Horse Heaven region. Crescent Canyon is informally subdivided into the following physiographic zones: Southwest Wall, West-Side Canyon, West Wall, Northwest Wall, Northeast Wall, East-Side Canyon-North, East Wall, East-Side Canyon-South, and Southeast Wall. Informal physiographic zones are also shown for the east part of Thompson Pass (South Face, East Bowl) and Horse Heaven Northwest Bowl, Southwest Bowl, South Face).

Figure 3.

Crescent Canyon. Merged U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps (Floy Canyon South and Crescent Junction) showing the Thompson Pass, Crescent Canyon, and Horse Heaven region. Crescent Canyon is informally subdivided into the following physiographic zones: Southwest Wall, West-Side Canyon, West Wall, Northwest Wall, Northeast Wall, East-Side Canyon-North, East Wall, East-Side Canyon-South, and Southeast Wall. Informal physiographic zones are also shown for the east part of Thompson Pass (South Face, East Bowl) and Horse Heaven Northwest Bowl, Southwest Bowl, South Face).

Figure 4.

Measured section through the Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval, West Wall, Crescent Canyon. Eight chronostratigraphic rock packages are identified, and are labeled 1–7, and CC-2 (multi-storey channel complex-2).

Figure 4.

Measured section through the Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval, West Wall, Crescent Canyon. Eight chronostratigraphic rock packages are identified, and are labeled 1–7, and CC-2 (multi-storey channel complex-2).

Figure 5.

Crescent Canyon. (A) Photo-panorama showing the correlation of eight chronostratigraphic rock packages (1–7, CC-2), West-Side Canyon to West Wall, Crescent Canyon. Camera position along the Southeast Wall of Crescent Canyon, looking northwest. White-cap (wc) sandstone within parasequence 5 is a useful correlation marker. Large-scale lateral accretion surfaces (LAS) highlighted by dashed lines within rock package 7. CC-2 (multi-storey channel complex-2). Crescent Canyon road in the upper right. (B) Photo-panorama, Southeast Wall, Crescent Canyon. Note the large-scale incision, lateral accretion surfaces and 12–15 m thickness of the CC-2 multi-storey channel complex.

Figure 5.

Crescent Canyon. (A) Photo-panorama showing the correlation of eight chronostratigraphic rock packages (1–7, CC-2), West-Side Canyon to West Wall, Crescent Canyon. Camera position along the Southeast Wall of Crescent Canyon, looking northwest. White-cap (wc) sandstone within parasequence 5 is a useful correlation marker. Large-scale lateral accretion surfaces (LAS) highlighted by dashed lines within rock package 7. CC-2 (multi-storey channel complex-2). Crescent Canyon road in the upper right. (B) Photo-panorama, Southeast Wall, Crescent Canyon. Note the large-scale incision, lateral accretion surfaces and 12–15 m thickness of the CC-2 multi-storey channel complex.

Figure 6.

Crescent Canyon. (A) Lateral accretion in channel complex 2 (CC-2), West Wall, Crescent Canyon. Rock packages 5–7 are labeled. (B) Deep incision (arrows) within CC-2, northeast face, East Bowl, Thompson Pass. (C) Incision near base of CC-2 (arrows), West Wall, Crescent Canyon. (D) Large-scale lateral accretion surfaces within rock package 7, West-Side Canyon, Crescent Canyon. Geologists (ovals) for scale.

Figure 6.

Crescent Canyon. (A) Lateral accretion in channel complex 2 (CC-2), West Wall, Crescent Canyon. Rock packages 5–7 are labeled. (B) Deep incision (arrows) within CC-2, northeast face, East Bowl, Thompson Pass. (C) Incision near base of CC-2 (arrows), West Wall, Crescent Canyon. (D) Large-scale lateral accretion surfaces within rock package 7, West-Side Canyon, Crescent Canyon. Geologists (ovals) for scale.

Figure 7.

Horse Heaven. (A) Portion of the Crescent Junction U.S. Geological Survey topographic map that highlights the location of Horse Heaven. Informal physiographic subdivisions include the Northwest Bowl, Southwest Bowl, and the South Face (West, Central, East). (B) Photo-panorama of the NW Bowl and SW Bowl of Horse Heaven. Camera position is from the top of the Castlegate Sandstone, along the NE Face of Christmas Ridge, looking east. Note the well-defined color bands in the Mancos Shale (Grassy Member equivalents). (C) Photo-panorama of the South Face, Horse Heaven. Camera position is along the old highway, looking north.

Figure 7.

Horse Heaven. (A) Portion of the Crescent Junction U.S. Geological Survey topographic map that highlights the location of Horse Heaven. Informal physiographic subdivisions include the Northwest Bowl, Southwest Bowl, and the South Face (West, Central, East). (B) Photo-panorama of the NW Bowl and SW Bowl of Horse Heaven. Camera position is from the top of the Castlegate Sandstone, along the NE Face of Christmas Ridge, looking east. Note the well-defined color bands in the Mancos Shale (Grassy Member equivalents). (C) Photo-panorama of the South Face, Horse Heaven. Camera position is along the old highway, looking north.

Figure 8.

Horse Heaven, Northwest Bowl. (A) Southeast Wall, Crescent Canyon, looking east. Rock packages 2–7 are labeled. Note that 5 and 6 split into smaller packages (5a-b, 6a-c). A prominent sandstone-rich channel, with basal incision, occurs in CC-2. NW Bowl, Horse Heaven is on the right in the background. (B) Northwest corner of the NW Bowl, Horse Heaven. Photo around the corner (east) and is adjacent to part A. (C) Shallow-marine rock packages 2–6, western portion of the NW Bowl, Horse Heaven. (D) Close-up photo showing the two thick shallow-marine rock packages (5 and 6) in the eastern portion of the NW Bowl, Horse Heaven. Person for scale (circle-arrow).

Figure 8.

Horse Heaven, Northwest Bowl. (A) Southeast Wall, Crescent Canyon, looking east. Rock packages 2–7 are labeled. Note that 5 and 6 split into smaller packages (5a-b, 6a-c). A prominent sandstone-rich channel, with basal incision, occurs in CC-2. NW Bowl, Horse Heaven is on the right in the background. (B) Northwest corner of the NW Bowl, Horse Heaven. Photo around the corner (east) and is adjacent to part A. (C) Shallow-marine rock packages 2–6, western portion of the NW Bowl, Horse Heaven. (D) Close-up photo showing the two thick shallow-marine rock packages (5 and 6) in the eastern portion of the NW Bowl, Horse Heaven. Person for scale (circle-arrow).

Figure 9.

Horse Heaven, Southwest Bowl. (A) Photo-panorama covering the NW and SW bowls of Horse Heaven. Multi-storey channel complex 2 (CC-2) and shallow-marine (SM) deposits are labeled. Mound-like CC-2 (large white arrow) is used as a reference/tie-point in parts A and B. (B) Photo-panorama of the northwest corner of the SW Bowl, Horse Heaven, looking north. Two thick SM sandstone bodies (rock packages 5 and 6) are recognized, and these correlate with the thick sandstones in the NW Bowl. Person bending down for scale (black arrow-circle). Prominent white cap channel sandstone layer caps rock package 7. (C) Photo-panorama showing a stack of SM sandstone beds (5–6c) overlain by a channel-fill sandstone package (7) with white cap (arrows), east-central portion of SW Bowl, Horse Heaven. This channel-fill package is sporadically “fused/welded” onto the underlying SM sandstones in the SW Bowl region. Photo looks southeast.

Figure 9.

Horse Heaven, Southwest Bowl. (A) Photo-panorama covering the NW and SW bowls of Horse Heaven. Multi-storey channel complex 2 (CC-2) and shallow-marine (SM) deposits are labeled. Mound-like CC-2 (large white arrow) is used as a reference/tie-point in parts A and B. (B) Photo-panorama of the northwest corner of the SW Bowl, Horse Heaven, looking north. Two thick SM sandstone bodies (rock packages 5 and 6) are recognized, and these correlate with the thick sandstones in the NW Bowl. Person bending down for scale (black arrow-circle). Prominent white cap channel sandstone layer caps rock package 7. (C) Photo-panorama showing a stack of SM sandstone beds (5–6c) overlain by a channel-fill sandstone package (7) with white cap (arrows), east-central portion of SW Bowl, Horse Heaven. This channel-fill package is sporadically “fused/welded” onto the underlying SM sandstones in the SW Bowl region. Photo looks southeast.

Figure 10.

Horse Heaven, South Face-West. (A) Entire South Face, Horse Heaven. Three informal physiographic zones are recognized: South Face-West, South Face-Central, South Face-East. Inset box shows the position on part C. (B) South Face-West, Horse Heaven. Desert Member rock packages 1–6 are highlighted. Underlying Mancos Shale color bands correspond to the Grassy Member and upper portion of the Sunnyside Member. Photo taken from the SE Bowl of Christmas Ridge, looking northeast. (C) Eastern edge of the South Face-West, Horse Heaven outcrop. Location shown in part A. Shallow-marine sandstone-rich rock packages (5–6) split into five smaller packages toward the east (5a–b, 6a–c). Note the iron-rich nodule-bearing layer within package 6a (elongated ovals). Top of the channel-rich package (arrows at the skyline) is equivalent to the white cap sandstone in the SW Bowl (i.e., rock package 7). Channel package becomes permanently “fused/welded” onto the top of the shallow-marine sandstones from this area, eastwards.

Figure 10.

Horse Heaven, South Face-West. (A) Entire South Face, Horse Heaven. Three informal physiographic zones are recognized: South Face-West, South Face-Central, South Face-East. Inset box shows the position on part C. (B) South Face-West, Horse Heaven. Desert Member rock packages 1–6 are highlighted. Underlying Mancos Shale color bands correspond to the Grassy Member and upper portion of the Sunnyside Member. Photo taken from the SE Bowl of Christmas Ridge, looking northeast. (C) Eastern edge of the South Face-West, Horse Heaven outcrop. Location shown in part A. Shallow-marine sandstone-rich rock packages (5–6) split into five smaller packages toward the east (5a–b, 6a–c). Note the iron-rich nodule-bearing layer within package 6a (elongated ovals). Top of the channel-rich package (arrows at the skyline) is equivalent to the white cap sandstone in the SW Bowl (i.e., rock package 7). Channel package becomes permanently “fused/welded” onto the top of the shallow-marine sandstones from this area, eastwards.

Figure 11.

Horse Heaven, South Face-Central. (A) Photo-panorama of the South Face (Central and East), Horse Heaven. Camera position on the old highway looking north. South Face-Central ridgeline is 1.3 km long (between two black arrows), while the South Face-East ridgeline is ~1.2 km long (between two black arrows). Inset rectangles show the position of part B, C, and D. (B) South Face-Central, Horse Heaven, photographed from the desert floor looking north. Shallow-marine (SM) rock packages 2, 3, 4, 5a–b, and 6a–c can be correlated beneath the lower coal bed (black arrows and labels). The lower coal caps rock package 6c and this coal thins to the east (right). Channel-fill sandstones and heterolithics of rock package 7 are sandwiched between the lower coal and upper coal(white arrows and labels), with the top of package 7 corresponding to the white cap channel sandstones observed throughout the SW Bowl of Horse Heaven. A sandstone-rich rock package (SM and CC-2) overlies the upper coal bed and becomes permanently “fused/welded” onto the underlying sandstone beds from this area, eastwards. Multi-storey channel complex-2 (CC-2). (C) South Face-Central, Horse Heaven, western side. Camera position on top looking west. (D) South Face-Central, eastern side. Camera position on top looking east.

Figure 11.

Horse Heaven, South Face-Central. (A) Photo-panorama of the South Face (Central and East), Horse Heaven. Camera position on the old highway looking north. South Face-Central ridgeline is 1.3 km long (between two black arrows), while the South Face-East ridgeline is ~1.2 km long (between two black arrows). Inset rectangles show the position of part B, C, and D. (B) South Face-Central, Horse Heaven, photographed from the desert floor looking north. Shallow-marine (SM) rock packages 2, 3, 4, 5a–b, and 6a–c can be correlated beneath the lower coal bed (black arrows and labels). The lower coal caps rock package 6c and this coal thins to the east (right). Channel-fill sandstones and heterolithics of rock package 7 are sandwiched between the lower coal and upper coal(white arrows and labels), with the top of package 7 corresponding to the white cap channel sandstones observed throughout the SW Bowl of Horse Heaven. A sandstone-rich rock package (SM and CC-2) overlies the upper coal bed and becomes permanently “fused/welded” onto the underlying sandstone beds from this area, eastwards. Multi-storey channel complex-2 (CC-2). (C) South Face-Central, Horse Heaven, western side. Camera position on top looking west. (D) South Face-Central, eastern side. Camera position on top looking east.

Figure 12.

Horse Heaven, South Face-East. (A) Panorama of the South Face-Central to South Face-East region, Horse Heaven. West-West of Blaze Canyon is located immediately to the east of the South Face outcrop. Inset rectangle shows the position of part C, inset trapeziums show the location of parts B and D. (B) South Face-East, Horse Heaven, western side. Location shown in part A. Rock packages 5a-b and 6a-c are labeled. Lower (black labels and arrows) and upper (white labels and arrows) coals bound rock package 7. SM (shallow marine), CC-2 (multistorey channel complex-2). The western edge of the South Face-Central outcrop is visible in the distance. (C) Photo-panorama from the South Face-East, Horse Heaven. Location shown in part A. Upper coal bed (white arrows and labels) extends to the eastern edge of the South Face. The lower coal bed horizon is also identified (black arrows) on the eastern half of the panorama and is marked by a heterolithic channel-fill (black stars). This horizon can be confidently correlated further east into West-West of Blaze Canyon, West of Blaze Canyon, and Blaze Canyon. An additional sandstone-rich layer occurs near the skyline and is “welded/fused” on top of the underlying sandstones (arrows and dashed line at base). (D) South Face-East, Horse Heaven, eastern side. Location shown in part A. Note that rock packages 5a, 5b, and 6a have an increase in mudstone toward the east.

Figure 12.

Horse Heaven, South Face-East. (A) Panorama of the South Face-Central to South Face-East region, Horse Heaven. West-West of Blaze Canyon is located immediately to the east of the South Face outcrop. Inset rectangle shows the position of part C, inset trapeziums show the location of parts B and D. (B) South Face-East, Horse Heaven, western side. Location shown in part A. Rock packages 5a-b and 6a-c are labeled. Lower (black labels and arrows) and upper (white labels and arrows) coals bound rock package 7. SM (shallow marine), CC-2 (multistorey channel complex-2). The western edge of the South Face-Central outcrop is visible in the distance. (C) Photo-panorama from the South Face-East, Horse Heaven. Location shown in part A. Upper coal bed (white arrows and labels) extends to the eastern edge of the South Face. The lower coal bed horizon is also identified (black arrows) on the eastern half of the panorama and is marked by a heterolithic channel-fill (black stars). This horizon can be confidently correlated further east into West-West of Blaze Canyon, West of Blaze Canyon, and Blaze Canyon. An additional sandstone-rich layer occurs near the skyline and is “welded/fused” on top of the underlying sandstones (arrows and dashed line at base). (D) South Face-East, Horse Heaven, eastern side. Location shown in part A. Note that rock packages 5a, 5b, and 6a have an increase in mudstone toward the east.

Figure 13.

(A) West-West of Blaze Canyon, East Wall. Rock packages 3–7, and the overlying SM (shallow marine) to CC-2 (multi-storey channel complex-2) are recognized. The top of 6 is highlighted by black arrows (i.e., time equivalent surface to the lower coal at Horse Heaven), while the top of 7 is marked by the upper coal bed (white arrows and labels). Rock package 7 has well-defined, large-scale, heterolithic-rich lateral accretion surfaces. (B) West of Blaze Canyon, East Wall. Similar rock packages as part A. Note that the top 6 horizon (black arrows) is characterized by thin channel-fill successions (stars), and that CC-2 entirely cuts out the SM package at a number of localities. Well-defined heterolithic channel-fill deposits occur in the upper part of package 7. (C) Blaze Canyon, East-Side Canyon. Similar stratigraphy to West-West and West of Blaze Canyon. Shallow-marine-dominated rock packages 3–6 are becoming muddier, while rock package 7 is dominated by heterolithic-rich channel-fill deposits, especially in the upper part of the package. Geologist for scale in upper left (thick arrow and circle). (D) Thompson Canyon, Northeast Wall. Package 7 has an abundance of sandstone-rich channel-fill facies, and is capped by a few meters of finer-grained, heterolithic-rich facies. (E) Sagers Canyon, North Wall. A significant basinward shift of facies occurs between Thompson Canyon to Sagers Canyon, which is predominantly recorded by the muddying of the shallow-marine rock packages (6, 7, SM), the extreme thinning of the channel-fill succession within package 7, and by the transition to a heterolithic-dominant fill in CC-2.

Figure 13.

(A) West-West of Blaze Canyon, East Wall. Rock packages 3–7, and the overlying SM (shallow marine) to CC-2 (multi-storey channel complex-2) are recognized. The top of 6 is highlighted by black arrows (i.e., time equivalent surface to the lower coal at Horse Heaven), while the top of 7 is marked by the upper coal bed (white arrows and labels). Rock package 7 has well-defined, large-scale, heterolithic-rich lateral accretion surfaces. (B) West of Blaze Canyon, East Wall. Similar rock packages as part A. Note that the top 6 horizon (black arrows) is characterized by thin channel-fill successions (stars), and that CC-2 entirely cuts out the SM package at a number of localities. Well-defined heterolithic channel-fill deposits occur in the upper part of package 7. (C) Blaze Canyon, East-Side Canyon. Similar stratigraphy to West-West and West of Blaze Canyon. Shallow-marine-dominated rock packages 3–6 are becoming muddier, while rock package 7 is dominated by heterolithic-rich channel-fill deposits, especially in the upper part of the package. Geologist for scale in upper left (thick arrow and circle). (D) Thompson Canyon, Northeast Wall. Package 7 has an abundance of sandstone-rich channel-fill facies, and is capped by a few meters of finer-grained, heterolithic-rich facies. (E) Sagers Canyon, North Wall. A significant basinward shift of facies occurs between Thompson Canyon to Sagers Canyon, which is predominantly recorded by the muddying of the shallow-marine rock packages (6, 7, SM), the extreme thinning of the channel-fill succession within package 7, and by the transition to a heterolithic-dominant fill in CC-2.

Figure 14.

A comparison of two possible correlation styles for the Desert-Castlegate interval: “Sequence Stratigraphy Interpretation” and “Lithostratigraphy Interpretation” (Van Wagoner, 1995). Van Wagoner’s (1995) “Sequence Stratigraphy Interpretation” clusters all channel and coastal plain facies together, separating them both temporally and spatially from all shallow-marine facies further down-dip, thus resembling a lithostratigraphic (i.e., similar lithologies lumped together) rather than a chronostratigraphic correlation style. The mislabeled “Lithostratigraphy Interpretation” actually shows a chronostratigraphic correlation between the nonmarine (i.e., coal beds, multi-storey channel complexes) and shallow-marine (i.e., flooding surfaces, parasequence stacking patterns) sections, which is consistent with the field observations presented herein.

Figure 14.

A comparison of two possible correlation styles for the Desert-Castlegate interval: “Sequence Stratigraphy Interpretation” and “Lithostratigraphy Interpretation” (Van Wagoner, 1995). Van Wagoner’s (1995) “Sequence Stratigraphy Interpretation” clusters all channel and coastal plain facies together, separating them both temporally and spatially from all shallow-marine facies further down-dip, thus resembling a lithostratigraphic (i.e., similar lithologies lumped together) rather than a chronostratigraphic correlation style. The mislabeled “Lithostratigraphy Interpretation” actually shows a chronostratigraphic correlation between the nonmarine (i.e., coal beds, multi-storey channel complexes) and shallow-marine (i.e., flooding surfaces, parasequence stacking patterns) sections, which is consistent with the field observations presented herein.

Figure 15.

Two contrasting depositional environment and paleogeographic interpretations of the Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval: “Sequence Stratigraphy Interpretation” and “Lithostratigraphy Interpretation” (Van Wagoner, 1995). The “Sequence Stratigraphy Interpretation” shows no temporal or spatial relationship between the nonmarine and shallowmarine rock types. In contrast, the mislabeled “Lithostratigraphy Interpretation” links the nonmarine to shallow-marine facies in both time (i.e., chronostratigraphy) and space, through correlation of key marker beds (i.e., coals, stacked multi-storey channel complexes, marine flooding surfaces), and has the best fit with field observations presented herein.

Figure 15.

Two contrasting depositional environment and paleogeographic interpretations of the Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval: “Sequence Stratigraphy Interpretation” and “Lithostratigraphy Interpretation” (Van Wagoner, 1995). The “Sequence Stratigraphy Interpretation” shows no temporal or spatial relationship between the nonmarine and shallowmarine rock types. In contrast, the mislabeled “Lithostratigraphy Interpretation” links the nonmarine to shallow-marine facies in both time (i.e., chronostratigraphy) and space, through correlation of key marker beds (i.e., coals, stacked multi-storey channel complexes, marine flooding surfaces), and has the best fit with field observations presented herein.

Figure 16.

Portion of Van Wagoner’s (1995) regional cross section that documents sequence stratigraphy and facies distribution in the Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone interval, from Crescent Junction (section 18) to Thompson Canyon (section 25). Vertical scale on measured sections marks 5 foot intervals, with thickness recorded every 10 feet. (A) Original version (Van Wagoner, 1995) highlighting the correlation of the Desert Sequence Boundary (SB) and the Castlegate SB. (B) Modified version with superimposed terminology from this study: rock package numbers (1–7), coal beds (lower, upper), shallow marine (SM), multi-storey channel complex-2 (CC-2), regressive surface of marine erosion (RSME), and white cap (WC) sandstone. The Upper Coal zone/top of rock package 7 marks the contact between the Desert Member and overlying Castlegate Sandstone. All sequence boundaries are “high frequency.” There is an increased likelihood of merging and amalgamation of high-frequency SBs both updip (west) and up-section (Castlegate). The opposite, splitting of high-frequency SBs, is more likely down-dip (east) and down-section (Desert). Legend applies to part B only.

Figure 16.

Portion of Van Wagoner’s (1995) regional cross section that documents sequence stratigraphy and facies distribution in the Desert Member to Castlegate Sandstone interval, from Crescent Junction (section 18) to Thompson Canyon (section 25). Vertical scale on measured sections marks 5 foot intervals, with thickness recorded every 10 feet. (A) Original version (Van Wagoner, 1995) highlighting the correlation of the Desert Sequence Boundary (SB) and the Castlegate SB. (B) Modified version with superimposed terminology from this study: rock package numbers (1–7), coal beds (lower, upper), shallow marine (SM), multi-storey channel complex-2 (CC-2), regressive surface of marine erosion (RSME), and white cap (WC) sandstone. The Upper Coal zone/top of rock package 7 marks the contact between the Desert Member and overlying Castlegate Sandstone. All sequence boundaries are “high frequency.” There is an increased likelihood of merging and amalgamation of high-frequency SBs both updip (west) and up-section (Castlegate). The opposite, splitting of high-frequency SBs, is more likely down-dip (east) and down-section (Desert). Legend applies to part B only.

Figure 17.

Alternative interpretation of the Desert-Castlegate stratigraphic interval based on field observations in the Thompson Pass to Sagers Canyon region. (A) High-resolution correlation. Rock packages 4–7 of the upper Desert Member, and SM (shallow marine) to CC-2 (multi-storey channel complex-2) of the lower Castlegate Sandstone. LAS (lateral accretion surface), N:G (net to gross ratio), WC (white cap), RSME (regressive surface of marine erosion). (B) Van Wagoner’s (1995) “Desert Sequence Boundary” cuts across the Lower Coal-Top 6 timeline in the Horse Heaven area, thus indicating that the “Desert SB” is not a true timeline. (C) Relative sea-level curve for the mid-Desert Member to mid-Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval, showing a longer term, Member-scale sea-level curve (dashed line) with a superimposed shorter term, parasequence-scale sea-level curve (solid line). Relative timing of rock packages 4–7 and SM are shown, as is the cutting of the “high-frequency” sequence boundaries (HF-SB) during the falling limbs of sea level. Van Wagoner’s (1995) Desert SB and Castlegate SB are actually composite surfaces that are comprised of numerous HF-SBs, as shown. (D) “Chrono-slab”/parasequence-scale model. Schematic cross section is oriented west to east and highlights four main facies belts or zones. Zone I: Nonmarine facies belt with fine-grained coastal plain deposits and single storey channel-fill successions, with (I-a) or without (I-b) multi-storey channel-fill complexes. Zone II: Large-scale, multistorey channel-fill successions (IVFs). Zone III: Transition between IVF/coastal plain and shallow-marine facies belts, which has an erosive (III-a) or conformable (III-b) contact determined by valley or inter-valley setting. Zone IV: Shallow-marine parasequences. MS (multi-storey channel complex), CP (coastal plain).

Figure 17.

Alternative interpretation of the Desert-Castlegate stratigraphic interval based on field observations in the Thompson Pass to Sagers Canyon region. (A) High-resolution correlation. Rock packages 4–7 of the upper Desert Member, and SM (shallow marine) to CC-2 (multi-storey channel complex-2) of the lower Castlegate Sandstone. LAS (lateral accretion surface), N:G (net to gross ratio), WC (white cap), RSME (regressive surface of marine erosion). (B) Van Wagoner’s (1995) “Desert Sequence Boundary” cuts across the Lower Coal-Top 6 timeline in the Horse Heaven area, thus indicating that the “Desert SB” is not a true timeline. (C) Relative sea-level curve for the mid-Desert Member to mid-Castlegate Sandstone stratigraphic interval, showing a longer term, Member-scale sea-level curve (dashed line) with a superimposed shorter term, parasequence-scale sea-level curve (solid line). Relative timing of rock packages 4–7 and SM are shown, as is the cutting of the “high-frequency” sequence boundaries (HF-SB) during the falling limbs of sea level. Van Wagoner’s (1995) Desert SB and Castlegate SB are actually composite surfaces that are comprised of numerous HF-SBs, as shown. (D) “Chrono-slab”/parasequence-scale model. Schematic cross section is oriented west to east and highlights four main facies belts or zones. Zone I: Nonmarine facies belt with fine-grained coastal plain deposits and single storey channel-fill successions, with (I-a) or without (I-b) multi-storey channel-fill complexes. Zone II: Large-scale, multistorey channel-fill successions (IVFs). Zone III: Transition between IVF/coastal plain and shallow-marine facies belts, which has an erosive (III-a) or conformable (III-b) contact determined by valley or inter-valley setting. Zone IV: Shallow-marine parasequences. MS (multi-storey channel complex), CP (coastal plain).

Cumulative
mi(km)Description
0.0(0.0)Depart the Clarion Inn in Grand Junction. Turn right on Horizon Drive (south).
0.1(0.2)Turn right at traffic lights onto I-70. Drive west.
34.4(55.4)Utah-Colorado border. Continue driving west on I-70.
78.9(127.0)Exit I-70 and park at the rest stop. Stop 1—Thompson Overview.
78.9(127.0)Continue driving west.
92.9(149.5)Exit I-70 at Ranch Exit 175 and drive north and west on the old highway.
93.1(149.8)Turn right (north) onto the Floy Canyon road (note the sign).
93.3(150.1)Stop before crossing the railway tracks. This is a non-signaled “level crossing,” which is very active with railway traffic. Proceed with caution. Continue driving north.
96.9(155.9)Take the left-hand fork and continue driving north.
99.2(159.6)Turn right onto a dirt track and drive east.
100.5(161.7)Park vehicles at the Blaze A-1 well. Stop 2A—The Basin.
100.5(161.7)Retrace route. Drive west.
101.8(163.8)Turn right at the T-junction and drive north.
103.7(166.9)Park the vehicles. Stop 2B—The Basin.
103.7(166.9)Retrace route back to the highway. Drive south.
107.9(173.6)Turn right at the T-junction. Continue driving south.
111.5(179.4)Stop at railway tracks. Proceed with caution.
111.7(179.7)Turn left (east) onto the old highway.
111.9(180.0)Enter I-70 westbound. Drive westbound to Green River.
122.9(197.7)Exit I-70. Turn north toward Green River. Drive north and west on Main Street.
124.2(199.8)Overnight at the Comfort Inn.
Cumulative
mi(km)Description
0.0(0.0)Depart the Clarion Inn in Grand Junction. Turn right on Horizon Drive (south).
0.1(0.2)Turn right at traffic lights onto I-70. Drive west.
34.4(55.4)Utah-Colorado border. Continue driving west on I-70.
78.9(127.0)Exit I-70 and park at the rest stop. Stop 1—Thompson Overview.
78.9(127.0)Continue driving west.
92.9(149.5)Exit I-70 at Ranch Exit 175 and drive north and west on the old highway.
93.1(149.8)Turn right (north) onto the Floy Canyon road (note the sign).
93.3(150.1)Stop before crossing the railway tracks. This is a non-signaled “level crossing,” which is very active with railway traffic. Proceed with caution. Continue driving north.
96.9(155.9)Take the left-hand fork and continue driving north.
99.2(159.6)Turn right onto a dirt track and drive east.
100.5(161.7)Park vehicles at the Blaze A-1 well. Stop 2A—The Basin.
100.5(161.7)Retrace route. Drive west.
101.8(163.8)Turn right at the T-junction and drive north.
103.7(166.9)Park the vehicles. Stop 2B—The Basin.
103.7(166.9)Retrace route back to the highway. Drive south.
107.9(173.6)Turn right at the T-junction. Continue driving south.
111.5(179.4)Stop at railway tracks. Proceed with caution.
111.7(179.7)Turn left (east) onto the old highway.
111.9(180.0)Enter I-70 westbound. Drive westbound to Green River.
122.9(197.7)Exit I-70. Turn north toward Green River. Drive north and west on Main Street.
124.2(199.8)Overnight at the Comfort Inn.
Cumulative
mi(km)Description
0.0(0.0)Exit the Comfort Inn parking lot. Turn left on Main Street. Drive east.
1.3(2.1)Turn eastbound on I-70.
19.3(31.1)Exit I-70 at Crescent Junction (Exit 182). Turn north on Highway, 191 for Crescent Junction.
19.4(31.2)Turn right (east) along old highway past the gas station.
19.6(31.5)Turn left (north).
19.7(31.7)Stop at railway tracks. Proceed with caution. Drive north.
19.8(31.9)Take left hand dirt track to Crescent Canyon. Drive west and north.
22.0(35.4)Turn right onto Crescent Canyon dirt track. Drive north-northeast.
24.4(39.3)Base of steep hill/switchback. Check road conditions before proceeding. Drive carefully north.
24.8(39.9)Park vehicles just past the cattle-guard. Stop 3—Crescent Canyon.
24.8(39.9)Continue to drive north. Be careful. This road is narrow.
25.5(41.0)Take right-hand fork. Drive north and east.
26.2(42.2)Head of Crescent Canyon. Continue driving east and south.
29.0(46.7)Park vehicles by the side of the road. Stop 4—Horse Heaven.
29.0(46.7)Continue driving east.
29.8(47.9)Park vehicles on the side of the dirt track and walk 100 m to the east. Stop 5A—West-West of Blaze Canyon.
29.8(47.9)Continue driving east.
31.3(50.4)Park vehicles on the side of the dirt track and walk 250 m east. Stop 5B—West of Blaze Canyon.
31.3(50.4)Retrace route to Blaze Canyon parking spot. Drive east on dirt track.
34.2(55.0)Blaze Canyon parking spot. Stop 6—Blaze Canyon.
34.2(55.0)Continue driving east on dirt track.
38.2(61.5)Turn right on dirt road and travel down Thompson Canyon.
39.0(62.8)Petroglyph and pictograph site. Continue driving south.
42.1(67.7)Cross railway tracks in Thompson Springs and continue driving south.
43.4(69.8)Turn right and enter I-70 westbound. Drive west to Green River.
66.4(106.8)Exit I-70. Turn north toward Green River. Drive north and west on Main Street.
67.7(108.9)Overnight at the Comfort Inn.
Cumulative
mi(km)Description
0.0(0.0)Exit the Comfort Inn parking lot. Turn left on Main Street. Drive east.
1.3(2.1)Turn eastbound on I-70.
19.3(31.1)Exit I-70 at Crescent Junction (Exit 182). Turn north on Highway, 191 for Crescent Junction.
19.4(31.2)Turn right (east) along old highway past the gas station.
19.6(31.5)Turn left (north).
19.7(31.7)Stop at railway tracks. Proceed with caution. Drive north.
19.8(31.9)Take left hand dirt track to Crescent Canyon. Drive west and north.
22.0(35.4)Turn right onto Crescent Canyon dirt track. Drive north-northeast.
24.4(39.3)Base of steep hill/switchback. Check road conditions before proceeding. Drive carefully north.
24.8(39.9)Park vehicles just past the cattle-guard. Stop 3—Crescent Canyon.
24.8(39.9)Continue to drive north. Be careful. This road is narrow.
25.5(41.0)Take right-hand fork. Drive north and east.
26.2(42.2)Head of Crescent Canyon. Continue driving east and south.
29.0(46.7)Park vehicles by the side of the road. Stop 4—Horse Heaven.
29.0(46.7)Continue driving east.
29.8(47.9)Park vehicles on the side of the dirt track and walk 100 m to the east. Stop 5A—West-West of Blaze Canyon.
29.8(47.9)Continue driving east.
31.3(50.4)Park vehicles on the side of the dirt track and walk 250 m east. Stop 5B—West of Blaze Canyon.
31.3(50.4)Retrace route to Blaze Canyon parking spot. Drive east on dirt track.
34.2(55.0)Blaze Canyon parking spot. Stop 6—Blaze Canyon.
34.2(55.0)Continue driving east on dirt track.
38.2(61.5)Turn right on dirt road and travel down Thompson Canyon.
39.0(62.8)Petroglyph and pictograph site. Continue driving south.
42.1(67.7)Cross railway tracks in Thompson Springs and continue driving south.
43.4(69.8)Turn right and enter I-70 westbound. Drive west to Green River.
66.4(106.8)Exit I-70. Turn north toward Green River. Drive north and west on Main Street.
67.7(108.9)Overnight at the Comfort Inn.
Cumulative
mi(km)Description
0.0(0.0)Exit the Comfort Inn parking lot. Turn left onto Main Street. Drive east and south toward I-70.
1.3(2.1)Turn eastbound on I-70. Drive east.
19.2(30.9)Crescent Junction. Continue driving east on I-70.
24.2(39.0)Exit I-70 at Exit 187 and drive north through Thompson Springs.
25.5(41.1)Cross railway tracks in Thompson Springs and continue driving north.
28.6(46.0)Picnic site with petroglyphs and pictographs. Stop 7—Thompson Canyon.
28.6(46.0)Retrace route back to I-70.
31.7(51.0)Railway tracks in Thompson. Continue driving south.
33.0(53.1)Turn eastbound on I-70.
38.8(62.4)Exit I-70 at Ranch Exit, 193.
39.1(62.9)Turn left and drive north on a bridge over I-70.
39.8(64.0)Turn right at the T-junction and drive east along the old highway.
40.3(64.8)Turn left onto the Sagers Canyon road. Drive north.
41.5(66.8)Dirt road drops into Sagers Wash and passes underneath the railway tracks. Continue driving north.
43.6(70.2)Park the vehicles and view the 13-km-long, depositional-dip-oriented section. Stop 8A—Sagers Canyon Overview.
43.6(70.2)Continue driving north into Sagers Canyon.
45.7(73.5)Park the vehicles and climb the scree slope to examine the Desert-Castlegate stratigraphic interval. Stop 8B—Sagers Canyon.
45.7(73.5)Retrace route back to I-70.
49.9(80.3)Railway bridge. Continue driving south.
51.1(82.2)Turn right onto old highway. Drive west.
51.6(83.0)Turn left onto I-70 access road. Drive south.
52.3(84.2)Bridge over I-70.
52.4(84.3)Take eastbound merge lane for I-70. Drive east on I-70.
92.1(148.2)Utah-Colorado border. Continue driving east on I-70.
126.4(203.4)Horizon Drive Exit in Grand Junction. Turn left at traffic lights (north) onto Horizon Drive.
126.7(203.9)Turn left into the Clarion Inn parking lot, Grand Junction.
Cumulative
mi(km)Description
0.0(0.0)Exit the Comfort Inn parking lot. Turn left onto Main Street. Drive east and south toward I-70.
1.3(2.1)Turn eastbound on I-70. Drive east.
19.2(30.9)Crescent Junction. Continue driving east on I-70.
24.2(39.0)Exit I-70 at Exit 187 and drive north through Thompson Springs.
25.5(41.1)Cross railway tracks in Thompson Springs and continue driving north.
28.6(46.0)Picnic site with petroglyphs and pictographs. Stop 7—Thompson Canyon.
28.6(46.0)Retrace route back to I-70.
31.7(51.0)Railway tracks in Thompson. Continue driving south.
33.0(53.1)Turn eastbound on I-70.
38.8(62.4)Exit I-70 at Ranch Exit, 193.
39.1(62.9)Turn left and drive north on a bridge over I-70.
39.8(64.0)Turn right at the T-junction and drive east along the old highway.
40.3(64.8)Turn left onto the Sagers Canyon road. Drive north.
41.5(66.8)Dirt road drops into Sagers Wash and passes underneath the railway tracks. Continue driving north.
43.6(70.2)Park the vehicles and view the 13-km-long, depositional-dip-oriented section. Stop 8A—Sagers Canyon Overview.
43.6(70.2)Continue driving north into Sagers Canyon.
45.7(73.5)Park the vehicles and climb the scree slope to examine the Desert-Castlegate stratigraphic interval. Stop 8B—Sagers Canyon.
45.7(73.5)Retrace route back to I-70.
49.9(80.3)Railway bridge. Continue driving south.
51.1(82.2)Turn right onto old highway. Drive west.
51.6(83.0)Turn left onto I-70 access road. Drive south.
52.3(84.2)Bridge over I-70.
52.4(84.3)Take eastbound merge lane for I-70. Drive east on I-70.
92.1(148.2)Utah-Colorado border. Continue driving east on I-70.
126.4(203.4)Horizon Drive Exit in Grand Junction. Turn left at traffic lights (north) onto Horizon Drive.
126.7(203.9)Turn left into the Clarion Inn parking lot, Grand Junction.

Contents

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