Cryptic sequence boundaries in braided fluvial successions



In braided fluvial deposits, consisting of monotonous successions of sandstone or conglomerate, it may be difficult to distinguish regionally significant bounding surfaces (sequence boundaries) from autogenic channel-scour surfaces. Major surfaces may be characterized by erosional relief and draped by lag deposits, but not all sequence boundaries show these characteristics. Other clues to the presence of a major surface are sharp changes in detrital composition, shifts in regional palaeocurrent trends and evidence of early diagenesis of the sandstones immediately below the sequence boundary. Examples of these attributes of cryptic sequence boundaries are illustrated from three Mesozoic units in the Colorado Plateau area of the United States. In the Chinle Formation (Triassic), near Moab, Utah, angular intraformational unconformities overlie sandstones showing evidence of early diagenesis. In the Castlegate Sandstone (Upper Cretaceous) of east-central Utah, a cryptic sequence boundary can be discriminated from other erosion surfaces by the evidence of detrital petrography and early diagenesis. Palaeocurrent data indicate changes in regional palaeoslope at two sequence boundaries within this unit. Evidence of early diagenesis is also present at a sequence boundary in the Kayenta Formation (Jurassic) of westernmost Colorado.