Abstract: 

Facies architectural analysis of a river-dominated deltaic parasequence in the Turonian Ferron Sandstone Member, near Factory Butte, Utah, was conducted to determine the hierarchical spatial arrangement of mouth bars and their role in constructing the delta. Five architectural elements were identified using 21 measured sections, paleocurrent measurements, and bedding diagrams. They are: (1) prodelta (PF), (2) frontal splay (FS), (3) detached distal bars (DBs), (4) distributary mouth bars (DMBs), and (5) terminal distributary channels (TDCs). Lower in the parasequence, detached bars consist of proximally located cross-bedded and quasi-parallel laminated subaqueous bars that onlap the delta-front slope and grade distally into finer-grained distal delta front splays. These bars translate downstream in a progradational–aggradational–degradational trajectory and are overlapped by adjacent bars, forming a bar assemblage. These bars are interpreted to have been deposited by descending hyperpycnal flows as a decelerating axial jet. Deposition of these bars occurs at the delta-front to prodelta chokepoint, presumably due to flow deceleration. The distal bar assemblage is capped by an extensive but discontinuous shale drape, suggesting local abandonment. Upper facies assemblages show a distinct switch to predominantly cross-bedded distributary mouth bars, corresponding to a decrease in water depth, an increase in friction, and a likely transition into planar versus axial jets. This is indicated by aggrading cross-bedded distributary mouth bars that overlie the distal bars. Laterally, the mouth-bar deposits are interstratified with terminal distributary-channel deposits with prominent scour surfaces at the base. Separate distributary channels and their bars coalesce, ultimately to build the entire delta lobe. The detached distal bars prograde locally west to northwest and lack fair-weather wave-formed sedimentary structures, suggesting a local embayment along the regionally northeast prograding shoreline. Low levels of ichnofaunal diversity indicate a stressed, river-dominated setting. At the base of the section, frontal splays and detached bars, dominated by storm-driven river-flood deposits, are deposited over muddy prodelta facies. Detached bars are likely initiated about 500 meters distal of the distributary channel, in water depths of ∼ 10–30 meters, based on the thickness of the parasequence. Once this subaqueous platform is constructed by the distal bar assemblage, more proximal distributary mouth bars fill the remaining shallow-water accommodation. As the system continues to shallow, distributary channels override and scour the bars, reflecting reduced accommodation.

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