Abstract

Petrographic and dispersal data are essential to correct interpretation of mechanisms that create continental sequence-stratigraphic architecture. A case study from southern Utah demonstrates that Upper Cretaceous (upper Santonian-Campanian) alluvial successions in the southernmost part of the Cordilleran foreland basin were deposited by fluvial systems of contrasting drainage directions and provenance, and suggests that different mechanisms governed their sequence architecture. Most of the rivers flowed northeast, subparallel to the basin foredeep. Less common fluvial systems flowed to the east-southeast. The fluvial sandstones fall naturally into four petrofacies: (1) quartzofeldspatholithic (mean Qt61F19L20); (2) feldspatholithic (Qt29F19L52); (3) quartzolithic (Qt75F6L20); and (4) quartzose (Qt99F1L1). Petrofacies 1 and 2 were derived from mixed supracrustal and basement sources to the southwest and south, respectively, whereas petrofacies 3 and 4 were derived from uplifted thrust sheets of the Sevier orogenic belt to the southwest and west, respectively. Only the east-southeast-flowing rivers transported the quartzose petrofacies.

The fluvial strata, which include the uppermost Straight Cliffs, Wahweap, and Kaiparowits formations, form two large-scale stratigraphic successions typically interpreted as continental stratigraphic sequences hundreds of meters thick. Each succession begins with an amalgamated braided-fluvial deposit, grades to mudstone-rich strata with low sandstone-body connectivity, and culminates in highly connected sandstone bodies with multistory stacking. The basal amalgamated deposits of each succession are architecturally similar, but their compositional and dispersal characteristics are different. Quartzofeldspatholithic, quartzolithic, and quartzose sandstones above the lower base-level shift are variable, but generally similar in compositional and dispersal characteristics to both underlying and overlying strata, a phenomenon termed here congruence. In contrast, quartzose amalgamated fluvial sandstone above the upper base-level shift differs sharply in composition and dispersal direction from underlying and overlying lithic-rich strata. The foredeep axis controlled the progradation direction of the congruent shift, which was likely driven by climatically induced sediment influx, a eustatic fall, or both. In the case of the incongruent shift, increased sediment supply permitted the rivers to cross the foredeep. Temporal association of the upper amalgamated deposit with active structures in the thrust belt and foreland basin indicates that syntectonic thrust uplift, not isostatic uplift or climate, caused the influx of quartz.

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