Of sand and mud: Sedimentological criteria for identifying the turbidity maximum zone in a tidally influenced river



The thickness and lateral distribution of sand and mud beds and bedsets on channel bars from the tidally influenced Fraser River, British Columbia, Canada, are quantitatively assessed. Fifty-six vibracores totalling ca 114 m of vertical section are used to tabulate bed thicknesses. Statistical calculations are undertaken for nine channel bars ranging from the freshwater and tidal zone, to the sustained brackish water and tidal zone. The data reveal that thickness trends can be organized into three groups that broadly correspond to time-averaged hydrodynamic and salinity conditions in the various distributary channels. Thick sand beds (up to 30 cm) and thin mud beds (up to 5 cm) characterize the freshwater tidal zone. The tidal and freshwater to brackish-water transition zone comprises thin sands (up to 10 cm) and thicker muds (up to 19 cm), and the sustained brackish water tidal zone consists of thin muds (up to 6 cm) with relatively thicker sands (up to 25 cm). The results suggest that the locus of mud deposition occurs in the tidal freshwater to brackish-water zone, probably reflecting mud flocculation and deposition at the turbidity maximum. Landward of the turbidity maximum, mud deposition is linked to tidal influence (tidal backwater effect and reverse eddy currents on channel margins) as mud beds thin in the landward direction. These results support the hypothesis that mud deposition is greatest at the turbidity maximum and decreases in both the seaward and landward direction. This study also showcases that mud-bed thicknesses are greatest towards the turbidity maximum and thin in both the landward and seaward direction. In the rock record, the apex of mud deposition probably marks the position of the palaeo-turbidity maximum.