Unconventional distribution of facies in a continental rift basin: the Pliocene–Pleistocene Mangas Basin, south-western New Mexico, USA

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Abstract

The Pliocene–Early Pleistocene Mangas Basin in SW New Mexico, USA, was a N–NW-trending full graben that changed southward to an eastward-tilted half graben. Unlike the facies distribution predicted in existing models, the half-graben part of the Mangas Basin was characterized by broad alluvial fans derived from the footwall scarp, smaller hangingwall-derived alluvial fans, and a shallow, closed lake (Lake Buckhorn) that locally lapped onto the hangingwall hills. The distribution of facies within the full-graben part of the Mangas Basin was also unlike that predicted in current models, primarily because of a broad belt of alluvial-fan sediment derived from the eastern footwall scarp and a narrow belt of axial-fluvial sediment adjacent to the western footwall scarp. The distribution of facies in the Mangas Basin does not appear to have been controlled by the eastward tilt of the floor of the half graben or ‘see-saw’ motion of the floor of the full graben, as predicted by existing models, but rather by the large size of the alluvial fans on the eastern side of the basin. These fans were derived from large, high-relief catchments on the footwall scarp of the Mogollon Mountains, the uplift of which began during Early Miocene. This example illustrates how earlier uplift and drainage development in a mountain range may influence facies distribution in a younger extensional basin.

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