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ABSTRACT

A thick late Pleistocene sequence, comprising multiple beds of massive diamict facies resting on outwash gravels, occurs along the Bow River, near Banff, Alberta. Diamicts have a simple sheet-like geometry which dip downvalley at between 5° and 10°, with largely conformable bedding contacts. The sediments are strongly bimodal in texture, consisting of clasts supported by a silty sand matrix. Prolate clasts show a weak a-axis alignment parallel and transverse to the trend of the Bow Valley with a weak imbrication. Clasts of soft sediment are common. The diamict sequence has a maximum thickness of 30 m, infills the valley floor over an area of approximately 12 km2 and buries a channelled topography cut on the surface of underlying outwash gravels. Abandoned braided channels, veneered by windblown sand containing volcanic tephra dated at 6600 yr bp, occur on the infill surface.

Diamict facies were emplaced as subaerial debris flows derived by the mixing and remobilization of large volumes of outwash and glaciolacustrine sediment. Orientation data from clasts and a few basal grooves indicate that debris was derived upvalley and from adjacent valleyside slopes. A major episode of debris flow sedimentation may have been triggered by the abrupt drainage of lakes in tributary valleys as the Bow Valley glacier retreated. Downslope resedimentation of large volumes of sediment resulted in braided river aggradation downstream along the Bow River and can be dated to between 12 000 and 10 000 yr bp. Similar conditions probably occurred during deglaciation throughout the Canadian Cordillera and many other alpine areas, where poorly-sorted late glacial debris-flow facies have been mistaken for tills deposited directly by glaciers. The late glacial setting identified in this paper provides a basis of comparison with ancient continental glacial facies preserved in areas of active tectonism and high relief.