The 400 m of Blomidon redbeds accumulated in a semi-arid rift valley in the subtropics. At St Mary's Bay, these redbeds are 64% sandy mudstone (playa mudflats), 25% graded beds (sandflats at the toes of alluvial fans), 10% fissile claystone (playa lakes), and 1% channel sandstone (stream channels). Flash floods in mountains south of the valley flowed down alluvial fans to spread out to the north-east as sheet flows on sandflats and playa mudflats. Deceleration of the sheet flows deposited graded beds 2–83 cm in thickness on the sandflats and thin layers of mud on the playas. Nine sequences, consisting of arrangements of six lithologies, compose 90% of the graded beds. In order of decreasing abundance, these are: ripple cross-laminated siltstone → horizontally laminated mudstone; fining-upward, ripple cross-laminated siltstone; ripple cross-laminated sandstone → horizontally laminated mudstone; cross-bedded sandstone horizontally laminated mudstone; ripple cross-laminated sandstone → ripple cross-laminated siltstone; rippledrift cross-laminated siltstone horizontally laminated mudstone; fining-upward, ripple-drift cross-laminated siltstone; cross-bedded sandstone → ripple cross-laminated siltstone; and cross-bedded sandstone → ripple cross-laminated siltstone → horizontally laminated mudstone. The sheet flows, perhaps up to 1 m in depth, had a high concentration of suspended load. Deposition was dominantly during lower flow regime conditions and moderate to rapid flow deceleration. There are 32 thinning and fining-up cycles where a sandflat package of graded beds is transitionally followed by a playa package of sandy mudstone. The cycles range in thickness from 1·3 to 13·3 m, averaging 4·6 m. Each cycle is initiated by avulsion to a new active channel network on a fan. Gradual abandonment of the channel network produces the thinning and fining-up cycle. The cycles are grouped in three 60–70 m fining-up megacycles. Upwards within each megacycle, the packages of sandy mudstone compose a progressively larger proportion of the cycles. Each megacycle evidently was initiated by a brief period of tectonic movement on the border faults that produced greater relief of the highlands relative to the valley floor. Subsequent erosion gradually lowered the relief to yield a fining-up megacycle.