Laminations in the Upper Permian evaporite sequence in the Delaware Basin appear in the preevaporite phase of the uppermost Bell Canyon Formation as alternations of siltstone and organic layers. The laminations then change character and composition upward to organically laminated claystone, organically laminated calcite, the calcite-laminated anhydrite typical of the Castile Formation, and finally to the anhydrite-laminated halite of the Castile and Salado.
Laminae are correlative for distances up to 113 km (70.2 mi) and probably throughout most of the basin. Each lamina is synchronous, and each couplet of two laminated components is interpreted as representing an annual layer of sedimentation—a varve.
The thickness of each couplet in the 260,000-varve sequence (a total thickness of 447.2 m, 1467 ft) has been measured individually and recorded and provides the basis for subdividing and correlating major stratigraphic units within the basin. The uppermost 9.2 m (30.3 ft) of the Bell Canyon Formation contains about 50,850 varve couplets; the Basal Limestone Member of the Castile about 600; the lowermost anhydrite member of the Castile (Anhydrite I) contains 38,397; Halite I, 1,063; Anhydrite II, 14,414; Halite II, 1,758; Anhydrite III, 46,592; Halite III, 17,879; and Anhydrite IV, 54,187. The part of the Salado collected (126.6 m) contains 35,422 varve couplets. The Bell Canyon-Castile sequence in the cores studied is apparently continuous, with no recognizable unconformities.
The dominant petrologic oscillation in the Castile and Salado, other than the laminations, is a change from thinner undisturbed anhydrite laminae to thicker anhydrite laminae that generally show a secondary or penecontem-poraneous nodular character, with about 1,000 to 3,000 units between major oscillations or nodular beds. These nodular zones are correlative throughout the area of study and underly halite when it is present. The halite layers alternate with anhydrite laminae, are generally recrystallized, and have an average thickness of about 3 cm. The halite beds were once west of their present occurrence in the basin but were dissolved, leaving beds of anhydrite breccia. The onset and cessation of halite deposition in the basin was nearly synchronous.
The Anhydrite I and II Members thicken gradually across the basin from west to east, whereas the Halite I, II, and III Members are thickest in the eastern and northeastern part of the basin and thicken from southeast to northwest. This distribution and the synchroneity indicate a departure from the classical model of evaporite zonation.