Facies relationships in Pleistocene outwash gravels, southern Ontario: a model for bar growth in braided rivers



Facies relationships in Pleistocene braided outwash deposits in southern Ontario demonstrate the presence of a large braid bar with adjacent side channel. The core of the bar is up to 6 m high, and consists of crudely horizontally stratified gravels. Downstream from the core is the bar front facies, consisting of large gravelly foresets up to 4 m high, rounded off in many places by reactivation surfaces. Upstream from the core is the bar stoss side facies consisting of several sets (individually up to 35 cm thick) of tabular cross-bedding, arranged in coarsening-upward sequences. The stoss side—core—bar front relationships are continuously exposed in one 400 m long quarry face which is cut almost parallel to the palaeoflow direction. A transverse quarry face shows the side channel facies, which consists of trough cross-bedded sands. Gravel layers can be seen to finger from the main gravelly bar into the sandy side channel, but they do not reach the base of the channel. This surprising relationship indicates that gravel moved only in the topographically higher parts of the system. After deposition in the side channel, and growth upstream and downstream from the bar core, the entire system aggraded. Crudely horizontally stratified, and imbricated gravel sheets were laid down as a bar top facies.

Grain size analyses indicate strongly bimodal distributions, implying that much of the sand in the spaces between pebbles and boulders filtered in after the gravel had been deposited. This interpretation is strengthened by velocity calculations—mean velocities in excess of 300 cm/s would be needed to roll the gravel as bed load, but at such a velocity, a large amount of sand would be transported entirely in suspension.

In a final section of the paper, our results are combined with other work on braided systems in an attempt to formulate a more general facies model.