Continental successions of the North American Western Interior retroarc foreland basin provide an excellent opportunity to evaluate the tectonic controls on nonmarine sequence stratigraphy. The transition between the Upper Jurassic Brushy Basin Member anastomosed fluvial system of the Morrison Formation and the gravelly braided-river deposits of the Buckhorn Conglomerate has been studied to assess the dispersal of coarse clastics and the development of associated basin-wide unconformities in a sequence stratigraphic framework. The sharp contact between the two members is interpreted to be conformable based on stratigraphic, sedimentologic, and petrologic data collected at and near Cedar Mountain in central Utah, while a regional, mature paleosol at the top of the Buckhorn Conglomerate indicates the presence of a major sequence boundary. These interpretations are combined with paleoflow data and fluvial architectural analysis to reconstruct the evolution of the alluvial equilibrium profiles that controlled deposition of the succession.
The Buckhorn Conglomerate is interpreted as an example of a post-orogenic deposit on the basis of (1) its tabular geometry, (2) distance from the contemporaneous thrust belt, (3) shift to transverse paleoflow direction from the preceding Brushy Basin axial drainage, (4) conformable lower contact, and (5) presence of an overlying sequence boundary with a westward-expanding hiatus eroding the coeval foredeep. The onset of a protracted period of low rate of orthogonal convergence between the Farallon and North American Plates resulted in tectonic quiescence and consequent isostatic rebound of the Middle to Late Jurassic thrust belt and the contiguous contemporaneous foredeep, as well as dynamic uplift. The ensuing basin-wide decrease in subsidence rate induced the progradation of the Buckhorn alluvial plain into the Morrison back-bulge depozone, and the subsequent generation of the overlying pedogenic unconformity, which separates the deposits of the Jurassic flexural event from the overlying Sevier tectonostratigraphic unit.