Facies architecture and sequentiality of nearshore and ‘shelf’sandbodies; Haystack Mountains Formation, Wyoming, USA

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ABSTRACT

The Haystack Mountains Formation (Campanian, Mesaverde Group, US Western Interior Basin, Wyoming) contains a series of shallow-marine sandbodies, extending tens of kilometres out from a basin margin. The study succession (around 200 m thick) is composed of eight major sandstone tongues (Bolten Ranch, O'Brien Spring, Seminoe 1–2–3–4, Hatfield 1 and 2 members), each partially encased within marine shale intervals. The Formation is ‘sequential’at several scales. At the largest scale, the whole succession presents an aggradational to basinward-stepping stacking pattern of the sandstone tongues. At a lower level, each tongue (member) is characterized internally by two different types of lithosome: the first represents shoreface progradation with hummocky cross-strata passing up to swaley and trough cross-stratified sandstones. This lithosome is erosively truncated at its top in most cases, and has a general sheet-like geometry along strike, whereas down dip it displays a series of sharp-bounded clinothems. The latter sometimes indicate a downward as well as a basinward shift through time, as suggested by the occurrence of coarser and/or shallower facies at a lower level in the shoreface profile. The second type of lithosome is sheet- or wedge-like and sharply overlies the shoreface deposits. The lithosome consists of laterally widespread units of planar tabular to trough cross-bedded medium sandstones passing laterally (in a dip direction) into bioturbated sandstones. The lower part of this lithosome is progradational, becoming retrogradational into the overlying shales. The facies within the cross-bedded lithosome suggest a tidally dominated delta front to estuarine depositional setting.

The two types of lithosome are not related genetically. The erosion surface separating the two lithosomes is a sequence boundary separating forced-regressive (relative sea-level fall) shoreface deposits from lowstand to transgressive (early relative sea-level rise), cross-bedded deposits. The uppermost part of the cross-stratified lithosome shows a landward-stepping of component parasequences and is abruptly blanketed by open-marine shales.

The most widespread cross-bedded lithosomes are apparently best developed in the lowermost members of the Haystack Mountains Formation, i.e. in the aggradational part of the large-scale progradational succession. In the uppermost, highly progradational sandstone tongues, the shoaling-upward shoreface lithosome dominates, whereas the cross-bedded lithosome occurs in narrow, lensoid belts, or is absent. The middle portion of the succession shows intermediate characteristics. The vertical variation in geometry, thickness and progradational extent of successive cross-bedded lithosomes results from greater confinement of the incised nearshore systems both in space (landward direction) and in time (from the aggradation to the progradation architecture). The latter is a consequence of a decreasing rate of accommodation creation through time.

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