Erg margin of the Permian White Rim Sandstone, SE Utah



The Permian White Rim Sandstone of the Canyonlands National Park, Utah, contains a wide variety of sedimentary structures and features that largely result from stages in erg migration and marine influence on an erg margin. Three spatially distinct lithological and depositional facies are recognized and can be distinguished as informal units within the formation. The aeolian dune facies is composed predominantly of fine-grained cross-stratified sandstone of the White Rim erg. This facies is the most widespread and comprises the bulk of the formation. Within the aeolian dune facies are small subfacies that represent interdune deposits. A sheet sand facies, composed of parallel-bedded sandstone, makes up a significant part of the lowest part of the White Rim Formation. This facies appears to have been the precursor or leading (progradational) edge to the main erg system. The final facies is a reworked or veneer facies of rippled to disturbed sandstone that is localized in its extent. It is restricted to the upper few metres of the formation and is transitional in some places to the Triassic Moenkopi Formation. This veneer facies contains many structures which indicate marine reworking as well as periods of desiccation or subaerial exposure.

Some previous interpretations of the White Rim Sandstone have tended to classify the whole formation as one depositional setting. It is clear that at the margin of a sand sea, as shown in the White Rim Sandstone, there are transitional facies due to the interactions with other environments. Additionally, variation in the stratigraphic relationships of facies can be related to stages of erg migration. Erg margin deposits preceded central erg development. Erg initiation occurred during a probable relative sea level low. Sea level influence is recorded at the top of the formation because erg termination accompanied a relative sea level high with cut-off of sand supply. Transgression of the Permian Kaibab Sea over the White Rim erg was probably the main process in preservation of original dune topographic relief. Sea level fluctuations also may have affected distribution of facies and the complexities of structures at the erg margin. Subsequent fluvial reworking of the veneer facies may have obliterated Late Permian features during lowest Triassic Moenkopi deposition.