Abstract

Prior to Late Pennsylvanian time, the Permian basin of West Texas was a part of the southern margin of the North American craton and was the site of shallow, warm-water carbonate deposition. As the South American margin of Gondwana gradually moved northwestward during late Paleozoic time, the oceanic floor deposits and overlying turbidite fan deposits between North America and South America became parts of large accretionary wedges of semiconsolidated sediments. In a series of steps, these wedges were folded and thrust toward the northwest against, then finally onto, the southern margin of North America. These compressive steps caused the repeated piling up of the accretionary wedges to form rapidly eroding highlands on the cratonic margins. Repeated loading on the North American margin formed a series of elongate, deep-water, depositional troughs (fore-deeps) immediately north and west of the accretionary wedges, and these received thick accumulations of turbidites. The youngest of these deep basins include the northwestern part of the Val Verde basin to the north and the Marfa basin to the west which received basinal deposits from within Desmoinesian into early Late Permian time.

Loading of the cratonic margin also resulted in renewed faulting along generally northwest- to north-trending older zones of weakness. These zones are apparently of Precambrian age. On the craton, the late Paleozoic faults mainly had high-angle to vertical fault planes and commonly had large components of horizontal displacement. This fault system outlines the major uplifts and basins in the Permian basin region.

The joining together of Gondwana and Euramerica across the Marathon salient of the orogenic belt was essentially completed by mid-Wolfcampian time. After that time, the southern margin of the Permian basin, represented by the Dugout and Marathon allochthons and the Diablo Platform, became a relatively stable tectonic area. The Glass Mountains expose a series of north- and northwest-dipping cuestas of Permian carbonate shelf and shelf-edge deposits that accumulated on a platform constructed from these two allochthonous accretionary wedges. These Permian deposits prograded north and northwestward into the narrow Hovey Channel, which connected the Marfa basin with the southern end of the Delaware basin. Carbonate-reef growth finally restricted the inflow of marine water into the Delaware basin near the end of late Guadalupian time.

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