Clastic wedge development and sediment budget in a source-to-sink transect (Late Campanian western interior basin, SW Wyoming and N Colorado)



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The problem of how sand and mud was distributed downslope, within linked alluvial-brackish water-marine shoreline systems of an extensive clastic wedge is addressed here. The Iles Clastic wedge accumulated over a time period of a few million years (my), and its component high-frequency regressive-transgressive sequences have a duration of a few 100 thousand years (ky). The sediment partitioning study provides insight into where the thickest sandstones and mudstones were located, and generates a model that can be applied to improving the management of hydrocarbons or water resources. A 300 km 2-D study transect across the Iles Clastic Wedge in SW Wyoming and N Colorado included subsurface well log information and outcrop stratigraphic columns. This information was used to correlate high-frequency sequences across several hundred kilometers, characterize depositional processes from proximal to distal reaches, develop a sediment partitioning model, and understand the role of the likely drivers in the development of the wedge and its internal sequences. The main results of this study are: (1) The Iles Clastic Wedge spans 3 my (500 m thick) and is composed internally of 11 sequences of 200-400 ky, each of which have significant regressive-transgressive transits of up to 90 km. Sediment partitioning analysis shows that within the regressive limb of the large wedge, the component regressive compartments tend to thicken basinwards, whereas transgressive compartments thicken landwards. This geometry is driven by preferential erosion in proximal areas during regression, bypassing much sediment to the marine shorelines, and transgressive backfilling into proximal areas previously eroded more deeply. (2) The greatest concentration of sands tends to be located in the proximal fluvial and estuarine facies of the transgressive compartments and within the medial shoreline/deltaic facies of the regressive compartments. (3) As the high-frequency sequences developed, the effectiveness of basinward sand partitioning reaches a maximum value near the peak regression level of the wedge, reflecting stronger erosion and sediment bypass during this times. (4) The development of the Iles Clastic Wedge was influenced by both tectonic and eustatic drivers, with important tectonic control in the upstream reaches. On a 4th-order timescale, the Iles Wedge internal sequences were likely influenced mainly by eustasy.