The Cretaceous Cliff House Sandstone comprises a thick (400 m) net-transgressive succession representing a mixed wave- and tide-influenced shallow-marine system that migrated episodically landwards. This study examines the youngest part (middle Campanian) of the Cliff House Sandstone, exposed in Chaco Cultural Natural Historical Park, northwest New Mexico, U.S.A. Detailed mapping of facies architecture between a three-dimensional network of measured sections has allowed the character, geometry, and distribution of key stratigraphic surfaces and stratal units to be reconstructed. Upward-shallowing facies successions (parasequences) are separated by laterally extensive transgressive erosion (ravinement) surfaces cut by both wave and tide processes. Preservation of facies tracts in each parasequence is controlled by the depth of erosion and migration trajectory of the overlying ravinement surfaces. In most parasequences, there is no preservation of the proximal wave-dominated facies tracts (foreshore, upper-shoreface), resulting in thin (4–7 m) top-truncated packages. Four distinct shallow marine tongues (parasequence sets) have been identified, consisting of ten parasequences with a total stratigraphic thickness of ∼ 100 m. Each tongue records an episode of complex shoreline migration history (multiple regressive–transgressive phases) in an overall net-transgressive system.
The ravinement surfaces provide a stratigraphic framework in which to understand partitioning of tide- and wave-dominated deposits in a net-transgressive system, and a model is presented to account for the sediment distribution and stratigraphic architecture observed in each parasequence. Despite a complex internal architecture, parasequences exhibit a predictable pattern which can be related to the regressive and transgressive phases of deposition. Preservation of wave-dominated facies tracts is associated with shoreline regression, while tide-dominated facies tracts are interpreted to record sediment accumulation during shoreline transgression that also resulted in significant erosion of the underlying regressive deposits. The interplay between erosion, sediment bypass, and deposition during regression and transgression is shown to ultimately control the preservation and stratigraphic architecture of the larger-scale net-transgressive coastal system. While the Cliff House Sandstone exhibits a facies composition and quantitative stacking patterns (shoreline trajectory) similar to other studied examples, differences in the dip-extent of the wave-dominated sandstone tongue has resulted in a more disconnected architecture between the high-frequency cycles. Understanding the variety of stratal geometries that ravinement surfaces can generate is therefore crucial to predicting the spatial distribution and facies architecture in transgressive systems.