This study documents for the first time tidal bundling in a lower Paleozoic sheet sandstone from the cratonic interior of North America, providing insights into the hydrodynamics of ancient epicontinental seas. The Jordan Sandstone (Upper Cambrian) in the Upper Mississippi Valley contains large-scale planar tabular cross-sets with tidal-bundle sequences, which were analyzed in detail at an exceptional exposure. Tidal-bundle sequences (neap-spring-neap cycles) were delineated by foreset thickening-thinning patterns and composite shale drapes, the latter of which represent accumulations of mud during the neap tides of neap-spring-neap tidal cycles. Fourier analysis of the bundle thickness data from the 26 measurable bundle sequences revealed cycles ranging from 15 to 34 bundles per sequence, which suggests a semidiurnal or mixed tidal system along this part of the Late Cambrian shoreline.
We extend the tidal interpretation to widespread occurrences of the same facies in outcrops of lesser quality, where the facies is recognizable but too few bundles are exposed for tidal cycles to be measured. By doing so, this study shows that tidally generated deposits have a significant geographic and temporal extent in Upper Cambrian strata of central mid-continent North America. The deposition and preservation of tidal facies was related to the intermittent development of shoreline embayments during transgressions. The tidally dominated deposits filled ravined topographies that were repeatedly developed on the updip parts of the shoreface. Resulting coastal geomorphologies, accompanied perhaps by larger-scale changes in basinal conditions and/or configuration, led to changes in depositional conditions from wave-dominated to tide-dominated.
Outcrops of the Jordan Sandstone tidal facies in the Upper Mississippi Valley represent the farthest inboard recorded transmission of ocean-generated tides in the Laurentian epicontinental seas, demonstrating that tidal currents were significant agents in the transport of sand along the far cratonic interior shorelines of Cambrian North America. The results of this study improve the facies-level understanding of the genesis of sheet sandstones. Furthermore, tidalites documented here occur in a specific position within a sequence stratigraphic architecture for the Jordan Sandstone. This provides a framework to compare these ancient deposits and processes to younger (e.g., Carboniferous) epicontinental systems where stratal and sediment dynamics are better documented.