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Deep-water foreland basin deposits of the Cerro Toro Formation, Magallanes basin, Chile: architectural elements of a sinuous basin axial channel belt



Coarse-grained deep-water strata of the Cerro Toro Formation in the Cordillera Manuel Señoret, southern Chile, represent the deposits of a major channel belt (4 to 8 km wide by >100 km long) that occupied the foredeep of the Magallanes basin during the Late Cretaceous. Channel belt deposits comprise a ca 400 m thick conglomeratic interval (informally named the ‘Lago Sofia Member’) encased in bathyal fine-grained units. Facies of the Lago Sofia Member include sandy matrix conglomerate (that show evidence of traction-dominated deposition and sedimentation from turbulent gravity flows), muddy matrix conglomerate (graded units interpreted as coarse-grained slurry-flow deposits) and massive sandstone beds (high-density turbidity current deposits). Interbedded sandstone and mudstone intervals are present locally, interpreted as inner levée deposits. The channel belt was characterized by a low sinuousity planform architecture, as inferred from outcrop mapping and extensive palaeocurrent measurements. Laterally adjacent to the Lago Sofia Member are interbedded mudstone and sandstone facies derived from gravity flows that spilled over the channel belt margin. A levée interpretation for these fine-grained units is based on several observations, which include: (i) palaeocurrent measurements that indicate flows diverged (50° to 100°) once they spilled over the confining channel margin; (ii) sandstone beds progressively thin, away from the channel belt margin; (iii) evidence that the eroded channel base was not very well indurated, including a stepped margin and injection of coarse-grained channel material into surrounding fine-grained units; and (iv) the presence of sedimentary features common to levées, including slumped units inferring depositional slopes dipping away from the channel margin, lenticular sandstone beds thinning distally from the channel margin, soft sediment deformation and climbing ripples. The tectonic setting and foredeep architecture influenced deposition in the axial channel belt. A significant downstream constriction of the channel belt is reflected by a transition from more tabular units to an internal architecture dominated by lenticular beds associated with a substantially increased degree of scour. Differential propagation of the fold-thrust belt from the west is speculated to have had a major control on basin, and subsequently channel, width. The confining influence of the basin slopes that paralleled the channel belt, as well as the likelihood that numerous conduits fed into the basin along the length of the active fold-thrust belt to the west, suggest that proximal–distal relationships observed from large channels in passive margin settings are not necessarily applicable to axial channels in elongate basins.