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ABSTRACT

The upper portion of the Virgelle Member (Upper Cretaceous Milk River Formation) at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park of southern Alberta preserves evidence of tidal processes along an otherwise wave-dominated, progradational shoreline in the Cretaceous Interior Seaway of North America. The upper Virgelle Member is underlain by offshore transition to lower shoreface deposits of the Telegraph Creek Member and the lower Virgelle Member, respectively, and is overlain by the non-marine shales and sandstones of the Deadhorse Coulee Member. The sediments of the upper Virgelle Member were deposited along a prograding shoreline and are interpreted here as those of a tidal-inlet complex. Most inlet sections consist of an erosional base overlain by a shale-pebble conglomerate, followed by cross-bedded sandstones which become finer-grained and decrease in scale upwards. Indicators of tidal processes include palaeocurrent distributions, mud couplets, tidal bundles, re-activation surfaces and herringbone cross-beds. The sequence through the tidal-inlet complex can be differentiated, according to prevalent palaeoflow directions and sedimentary structures, as ebb-dominated, flood-dominated, or mixed-tidal influence. Ebb-dominated sections commonly contain lateral accretion surfaces whereas flood-dominated sections contain tidal-ramp deposits. Back-barrier lagoon deposits are dominated by sandstones of an extensive flood-tidal delta with only thin shales preserved locally at the top of the inlet complex. Deposits of ebb-tidal deltas are absent, presumably due to the effective sediment dispersal by waves and wave-induced longshore currents acting on the regionally wave-dominated shoreline.