ABSTRACT

Across the Mojave Desert of southeastern California, outcrops of the Cambrian middle member of the Wood Canyon Formation preserve the deposits of pre-vegetation braided-fluvial and braid-delta environments. One 78-meter-thick section in the southern Marble Mountains, documented here through detailed stratigraphic logging, facies analysis, architectural panels based on “Structure-from-Motion” models, and a suite of paleocurrent and accretion-surface measurements, provides insight into the development of a river-dominated, wave- and tide-influenced braid delta at the distal end of a continent-scale braidplain. In contrast to other pre-Devonian braid-delta strata, in which mudrock is largely absent, the greater part of the middle member system contains over 5% mudstone. Four facies associations, FA4–7, constitute the middle member section and represent (in order of stratigraphic height) a braidplain-to-delta transition (FA4), proximal braid delta (FA5), distal braid delta (FA6), and upper braid-delta front (FA7). The 20 meters of braidplain-to-delta transition strata are largely similar to those of fluvial middle member sections, containing approximately 2% mudstone, unimodal north-northwest paleoflow, and vertical, downstream, and downstream-lateral accretion elements representing compound barforms and channel fills. Above, each braid-delta facies association (FA5–7) preserves high-sinuosity paleocurrent indicators, 6–12% mudstone, and symmetrical, wave-formed sand waves. Decimeter-thick fluid-mud deposits found chiefly in FA6 and less commonly in FA7 indicate the presence of a turbidity-maximum zone that records brackish-water conditions in the distal braid delta. Trace fossils concentrated in FA7 suggest that metazoans were confined to the upper braid-delta front and could not tolerate the variable salinity of the braid delta. Increased marine influence with stratigraphic height requires gradual transgression during deposition of the middle member of the Wood Canyon Formation, possibly as part of a lowstand systems tract.

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