Sedimentology of a lacustrine fan-delta system, Miocene Horse Camp Formation, Nevada, USA



A 1600-m-thick succession of the Miocene Horse Camp Formation (Member 2) exposed in east-central Nevada records predominantly terrigenous clastic deposition in subaerial and subaqueous fan-delta environments and nearshore and offshore lacustrine environments. These four depositional environments are distinguished by particular associations of individual facies (14 defined facies). Subaerial and subaqueous fan-delta facies associations include: ungraded, matrix-and clast-supported conglomerate; normally graded, matrix- and clast-supported conglomerate; ungraded and normally graded sandstone; and massive to poorly laminated mudstone. Subaqueous fan-delta deposits typically have dewatering structures, distorted bedding and interbedded mudstone. The subaerial fan-delta environment was characterized by debris flows, hyperconcentrated flows and minor sheetfloods; the subaqueous fan-delta environment by debris flows, high- and low-density turbidity currents, and suspension fallout.

The nearshore lacustrine facies association provides examples of deposits and processes rarely documented in lacustrine environments. High-energy oscillatory wave currents, probably related to a large fetch, reworked grains as large as 2 cm into horizontally stratified sand and gravel. Offshore-directed currents produced uncommonly large (typically 1–2 m thick) trough cross-stratified sandstone. In addition, stromatolitic carbonate interbedded with stratified coarse sandstone and conglomerate suggests a dynamic environment characterized by episodic terrigenous clastic deposition under high-energy conditions alternating with periods of carbonate precipitation under reduced energy conditions. Massive and normally graded sandstone and massive to poorly laminated mudstone characterize the offshore lacustrine facies association and record deposition by turbidity currents and suspension fallout.

A depositional model constructed for the Horse Camp Formation (Member 2) precludes the existence of all four depositional environments at any particular time. Rather, phases characterized by deposition in subaerial fan, nearshore lacustrine and offshore lacustrine environments alternated with phases of subaerial fan-delta, subaqueous fan-delta and offshore lacustrine deposition. This model suggests that high-energy nearshore currents due to deep water along the lake margin reworked sediment of the fan edge, thus preventing development of a subaqueous fan-delta environment and promoting development of a well-defined nearshore lacustrine environment. Low-energy nearshore currents induced by shallow water along the