Recognition and implications of Eocene tufas and travertines in the Chadron Formation, White River Group, Badlands of South Dakota

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Abstract

There are few descriptions of pre-Quaternary tufa or travertine, yet these deposits have important climatic, hydrological and tectonic implications. In the Badlands of South Dakota, the Late Eocene Chadron Formation contains a variety of tufa (fluvial, lacustrine, paludal and perched springline types), travertine and calcrete (pedogenic and non-pedogenic types). In fluvial channels, tufas and tufa barrages (oncolites, tufa lithoclast conglomerates and phytoherms) are transitional to travertines (pseudostromatolitic boundstone gravels and small pinnacle resurgences with rimstone edges and pools). Lacustrine tufas formed in small ponds adjacent to other types of tufas and are similar to the ‘low-energy, bench-margin facies’ types observed in modern, groundwater-fed, temperate-zone hardwater lakes. Paludal tufas are laterally discontinuous sheets of pisoid-intraclast wackestone that fill palaeotopography. Distal perched springline tufas are mounds of numerous sloping tufa sheets. Concretions and rhizoliths associated with palaeosols are recognized as pedogenic calcretes, whereas non-pedogenic calcretes are variably cemented, vertically oriented conduits for palaeogroundwater discharge that are located in fault zones. These deposits resulted from palaeogroundwater discharge along faults during the Late Eocene. Coeval unroofing of the Black Hills uplift created a regional groundwater flow system through karsted Palaeozoic limestones exposed in the Black Hills. The Chadron Formation is an avulsion-dominated, siliciclastic unit, yet important bodies of carbonate accumulated in it as a result of groundwater processes.

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