Abstract

Erosion of Laramide-style uplifts in the western United States exerted an important first-order influence on Paleogene sedimentation by controlling sediment supply rates to adjacent closed basins. During the latest Cretaceous through Paleocene, these uplifts exposed thick intervals of mud-rich Upper Cretaceous foreland basin fill, which was quickly eroded and redeposited. Cretaceous sedimentary lithologies dominate Paleocene conglomerate clast compositions, and the volume of eroded foreland basin strata is approximately twice the volume of preserved Paleocene basin fill. As a result of this sediment oversupply, clastic alluvial and paludal facies dominate Paleocene strata, and are associated with relatively shallow and ephemeral freshwater lake facies. In contrast, large, long-lived, carbonate-producing lakes occupied several of the basins during the Eocene. Basement-derived clasts (granite, quartzite, and other metamorphic rocks) simultaneously became abundant in lower Eocene conglomerate. We propose that Eocene lakes developed primarily due to exposure of erosion-resistant lithologies within cores of Laramide uplifts. The resultant decrease in erosion rate starved adjacent basins of sediment, allowing the widespread and prolonged deposition of organic-rich lacustrine mudstone. These observations suggest that geomorphic evolution of the surrounding landscape should be considered as a potentially important influence on sedimentation in many other interior basins, in addition to more conventionally interpreted tectonic and climatic controls.

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