Characterizing avulsion stratigraphy in ancient alluvial deposits

H. L. Jones, E. A. Hajek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

58 Scopus citations

Abstract

Guidelines for identifying ancient avulsion deposits were set forth by Kraus and Wells [Kraus, M.J., Wells, T.M., 1999. Recognizing avulsion deposits in the ancient stratigraphical record. In: Smith, N.D., Rogers, J. (Eds.), Fluvial Sedimentology VI, Special Publication of the International Association of Sedimentologists, vol. 28, pp. 251-268], building on the study by Smith et al. [Smith, N.D., Cross, T.A., Dufficy, J.P., Clough, S.R., 1989. Anatomy of an avulsion. Sedimentology 36, 1-23] of the modern Saskatchewan River system (Cumberland Marshes, central Canada), and serve to characterize avulsion depositional sequences in the ancient Willwood and Fort Union Formations (Paleogene, Bighorn Basin, NW Wyoming, USA). We recognize, however, that the model is not universally applicable to avulsion-dominated successions, specifically systems which lack defining "heterolithic avulsion deposits", set forth by Kraus and Wells [Kraus, M.J., Wells, T.M., 1999. Recognizing avulsion deposits in the ancient stratigraphical record. In: Smith, N.D., Rogers, J. (Eds.), Fluvial Sedimentology VI, Special Publication of the International Association of Sedimentologists, vol. 28, pp. 251-268]. Observations in several fluvial intervals suggest that the avulsion stratigraphy outlined by Kraus and Wells [Kraus, M.J., Wells, T.M., 1999. Recognizing avulsion deposits in the ancient stratigraphical record. In: Smith, N.D., Rogers, J. (Eds.), Fluvial Sedimentology VI, Special Publication of the International Association of Sedimentologists, vol. 28, pp. 251-268] represents one category of avulsion stratigraphy found in the rock record, but does not capture the nature of avulsion deposits everywhere. Based on observations (using measured sections, outcrop photo-panels, and aerial photographs) in the Willwood Formation (Eocene, Wyoming) and Ferris Formation (Cretaceous/Paleogene, Wyoming), we present two end-member categories of avulsion stratigraphy in ancient deposits; stratigraphically abrupt, when a main paleochannel is stratigraphically juxtaposed directly atop floodplain/overbank deposits, and stratigraphically transitional, where crevasse splays and other non-floodplain/-overbank deposits stratigraphically precede a main paleochannel. This characterization provides a broader, more inclusive way to recognize and describe avulsion stratigraphy in ancient deposits and may be an important factor to consider when modeling connectivity in fluvial reservoirs. Furthermore, our observations show that one type of avulsion channel stratigraphy may prevail over another within an ancient basin, suggesting that system-wide factors such as splay-proneness or avulsion style (i.e. aggradational, incisional, etc.; [Slingerland, R., Smith, N.D., 2004. River avulsions and their deposits. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 32, 257-285]) may be primary controls on the type of avulsion stratigraphy deposited and preserved in ancient basin-fills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-137
Number of pages14
JournalSedimentary Geology
Volume202
Issue number1-2
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 15 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy

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