Fluvial siliciclastic rocks bracketing the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary in the San Juan Basin, New Mexico (USA), provide records of regional fluvial and tectonic evolution during the Laramide orogeny. Petrographic analyses of sandstones from the Upper Cretaceous Fruitland Formation and Kirtland Formation and the Paleocene Ojo Alamo Sandstone and Nacimiento Formation show that the rivers depositing these sediments were sourced in areas where unroofing of crystalline basement rocks took place, introducing an increasing proportion of immature detrital grains into the fluvial system through time. After the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary, rivers deposited an increasing amount of microcline and orthoclase feldspar relative to plagioclase feldspar, suggesting a growing source in unique crystalline basement rocks. Geochemical analyses show significant differences between Al- and K-poor Upper Cretaceous sandstones and Al- and K-rich lower Paleocene sandstones in the San Juan Basin.
The high proportion of sand-sized material in the Ojo Alamo Sandstone suggests that it was deposited in a basin with a low ratio of sediment supply to accommodation. However, magnetostratigraphic age constraints suggest it had a relatively high sedimentation and/or subsidence rate of as much as 0.38 m/k.y. The sediment supply must have been high in order to deposit a basin-wide coarse sand-dominated package, suggesting rapid creation of topographic relief in the San Juan uplift, the proposed source area of the Ojo Alamo fluvial system.
The observed sedimentary architecture and age constraints of the Ojo Alamo Sandstone, including kilometers-wide sand bodies and limited overbank mudstones throughout most of the outcrop area, are difficult to reconcile with accepted models of aggradation and avulsion in large fluvial systems, but available age and lithologic data make difficult a complete understanding of Paleocene San Juan Basin fluvial systems and basin evolution. Here, we present new lithologic, petrographic, and thickness data from San Juan Basin K-Pg fluvial siliciclastic units and interpretations of their origins.