Abstract

Despite extensive outcrop and previous sedimentologic study, the role of tidal processes along sandy, wave- and river-dominated shorelines of the North American Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway remains uncertain, particularly for the extensive mid-Campanian (ca. 75–77.5 Ma) tidal deposits of Utah and Colorado, USA. Herein, paleotidal modeling, paleogeographic reconstructions, and interpretations of depositional process regimes are combined to evaluate the regional-scale (hundreds to thousands of kilometers) basin physiographic controls on tidal range and currents along these regressive shorelines in the “Utah Bight”, southwestern Western Interior Seaway. Paleotidal modeling using a global and astronomically forced tidal model, combined with paleobathymetric sensitivity tests, indicates the location of stratigraphic units preserving pronounced tidal influence only when the seaway had a deep center (∼400 m) and southern entrance (>100 m). Maximum tidal velocity vectors under these conditions suggest a dominant southeasterly ebb tide within the Utah Bight, consistent with the location and orientation of paleocurrent measurements in regressive, tide-influenced deltaic units. The modeled deep paleobathymetry increased tidal inflow into the basin and enhanced local-scale (tens to hundreds of kilometers) resonance effects in the Utah Bight, where an amphidromic cell was located. However, the preservation of bidirectional, mudstone-draped cross-stratification in fine- to medium-grained sandstones requires tides in combination with fluvial currents and/or local tidal amplification below the maximum resolution of model meshes (∼10 km). These findings suggest that while regional-scale controls govern tidal potential within basins, localized physiography exerts an important control on the preservation of tidal signatures in the geologic record.

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