In past decades, numerous studies have focused on the alluvial sedimentary record of basin fill. Paleo–drainage basin characteristics, such as drainage area or axial river length, have received little attention, mostly because the paleo–drainage system underwent erosion or bypass, and its record is commonly modified and overprinted by subsequent tectonism or erosional processes. In this work, we estimate the drainage areas of early Miocene systems in the Gulf of Mexico basin by using scaling relationships between drainage area and river channel dimensions (e.g., depth) developed in source-to-sink studies. Channel-belt thickness was used to estimate channel depth and was measured from numerous geophysical well logs. Both lower channel-belt thickness and bankfull thickness were measured to estimate the paleo–water depth at low and bankfull stages.
Previous paleogeographic reconstruction using detrital zircon and petrographic provenance analysis and continental geomorphic synthesis constrains independent estimates of drainage basin extent. Comparison of results generated by the two independent approaches indicates that drainage basin areas predicted from channel-belt thickness are reasonable and suggests that bankfull thickness correlates best with drainage basin area. The channel bankfull thickness also correlates with reconstructed submarine fan dimension. This work demonstrates application to the deep-time stratigraphic archive, where records of drainage basin characteristics are commonly modified or lost.