Terrestrial sedimentary archives record critical information about environment and climate of the past, as well as provide insights into the style, timing, and magnitude of structural deformation in a region. The Cretaceous Newark Canyon Formation, located in central Nevada, USA, was deposited in the hinterland of the Sevier fold–thrust belt during the North American Cordilleran orogeny. While previous research has focused on the coarser-grained, fluvial components of the Newark Canyon Formation, the carbonate and finer-grained facies of this formation remain comparatively understudied. A more complete understanding of the Newark Canyon Formation provides insights into Cretaceous syndeformational deposition in the Central Nevada thrust belt, serves as a useful case study for deconvolving the influence of tectonic and climatic forces on sedimentation in both the North American Cordillera and other contractional orogens, and will provide a critical foundation upon which to build future paleoclimate and paleoaltimetry studies.
We combine facies descriptions, stratigraphic measurements, and optical and cathodoluminescence petrography to develop a comprehensive depositional model for the Newark Canyon Formation. We identify six distinct facies that show that the Newark Canyon Formation evolved through four stages of deposition: 1) an anastomosing river system with palustrine interchannel areas, 2) a braided river system, 3) a balance-filled, carbonate-bearing lacustrine system, and 4) a second braided river system. Although climate undoubtedly played a role, we suggest that the deposition and coeval deformation of the synorogenic Newark Canyon Formation was in direct response to the construction of east-vergent contractional structures proximal to the type section. Comparison to other contemporary terrestrial sedimentary basins deposited in a variety of tectonic settings provides helpful insights into the influences of regional tectonics, regional and global climate, catchment characteristics, underlying lithologies, and subcrop geology in the preserved sedimentary record.