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Lithofacies analysis of the Tertiary Ojo Alamo Sandstone and related strata in the San Juan Basin indicates that Laramide (Late Cretaceous–early Tertiary) volcanism and uplift north of the present-day San Juan Basin controlled sedimentation patterns of Upper Cretaceous and lower Tertiary rocks. Eight major lithofacies reflect changes in sedimentation that occurred during this time.

The Ojo Alamo Sandstone is characterized in most areas of the San Juan Basin by a pebbly, trough-crossbedded lithofacies. A related channel-form sandstone and shale facies makes up the Ojo Alamo at Mesa Portales. Both lithofacies include both sediment derived from north of the present-day San Juan Basin and sediment eroded and reworked from (1) a carbonaceous shale and channel-form sandstone facies, (2) a shale and volcaniclastic sandstone facies, and (3) a volcaniclastic conglomerate and sandstone facies.

The pebbly, trough-crossbedded lithofacies, which was deposited by streams on alluvial plains, differs in grain size, pebble composition, and transport direction on the east and west sides of the present-day basin. At least two distinct source areas for the streams are suggested by these differences. One source is in the area of the present-day Needle Mountains and western San Juan Mountains. A second source is located in the area of the central to eastern San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. Sediments deposited by alluvial streams in the western San Juan basin include sand- and pebble-size material. Initially, Ojo Alamo streams carried up to 25 percent volcanic pebbles reworked from the Animas Formation or from Upper Cretaceous andesitic flows in the source area. Later streams, however, carried an increasing percentage of quartz pebbles over volcanic pebbles.

Lithofacies of the Ojo Alamo in the eastern San Juan Basin include channel sandstone and conglomerates and a channel-form sandstone and shale facies. Compared to sediments of the western alluvial complex, the eastern sediments (mapped as Ojo Alamo Sandstone, upper part of the Animas Formation, and Nacimiento Formation) are finer grained, contain few pebbles, contain less than 1 percent volcanic pebbles, and show different transport directions. Mudstone interbeds are thicker and more abundant, especially at Mesa Portales where an accompanying down-dip change in the alluvial system contributes to formation of the channel-form sandstone and shale lithofacies.

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