Abstract

The lithostratigraphic interval between the Taber and Lethbridge coal zones in the upper portion of the nonmarine Judith River Group of southeastern Alberta is divisible into two lithostratigraphic units separated by a regionally extensive and diachronous discontinuity. The lower unit, referred to here as the Oldman Formation, is characterized by very fine grained to fine-grained sandstones that contain fewer than 2% volcanic rock fragments; sandstone bodies with numerous sets of horizontally stratified sandstone, showing little or no evidence of lateral accretion; siliceous paleosols (ganisters); and a relatively high gamma-ray signal in the upper half of the formation. The Oldman Formation comprises deposits of a low-sinuosity, perhaps ephemeral fluvial system that originated in the southern Cordillera of Canada and northern Montana and flowed northeastward, perpendicular to the axis of the Alberta Basin.The upper unit is assigned to a new formation, the Dinosaur Park Formation, and is characterized by fine- to medium-grained sandstones with up to 10% volcanic rock fragments; sandstone bodies that exhibit lateral-accretion surfaces in the form of inclined heterolithic stratification; numerous articulated dinosaurs and dinosaur bone beds; and a relatively low gamma-ray signal in the lower half of the formation. The Dinosaur Park Formation comprises deposits of a high-sinuosity, fluvial-to-estuarine system that originated in the north and central Cordillera and flowed southeastward, subparallel to the axis of the Alberta Basin.40Ar/39Ar and K–Ar dating of Judith River Group bentonites shows that the contact between the Oldman and Dinosaur Park formations becomes younger toward the south and southeast. These data also demonstrate that the Dinosaur Park Formation clastics migrated southeastward at a rate of approximately 130–140 km/Ma, gradually overstepping the Oldman Formation elastics.The widely recognized north-to-south increase in intensity of overthrust loading along the western margin of the Alberta Basin during the Late Cretaceous is thought to be responsible for (i) differences in accommodation space for the proximal portions of the Oldman and Dinosaur Park formations, and (ii) the establishment of a southerly tilt in the Alberta Basin leading to the southeastward migration of the Dinosaur Park Formation elastics. In the northern portion of the basin, relatively lower rates of subsidence, combined with periods of isostatic rebound in the foredeep, resulted in the southeastward migration of Dinosaur Park Formation elastics as sediment input exceeded accommodation space. In the southern portion of the basin, relatively higher rates of subsidence and little isostatic rebound acted to trap coarse-grained Oldman Formation elastics in the foredeep and may have led to periods of sediment starvation in more distal portions of the basin. An inferred lower depositional slope associated with the Dinosaur Park Formation (relative to the Oldman Formation) is thought to have resulted from gradual loading of the basin as Dinosaur Park Formation elastics migrated southeastward or some form of tectonically induced subsidence.

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