About This Item

Share This Item

The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 86, No. 6 (June 2002), P. 1095-1112.

Copyright ©2002. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

Structural controls on drainage development in the Canyonlands grabens of southeast Utah

Bruce D. Trudgill1

1Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine, RSM Building, Prince Consort Road, London, SW7 2BP, United Kingdom; email: [email protected]


Bruce Trudgill has a B.Sc. degree in geology from Aberystwyth, University of Wales and a Ph.D. in structural geology from Imperial College, London. He was a geophysicist at Amerada Hess UK Ltd. before taking up a postdoctoral research fellow position back at Imperial College studying the growth of normal fault structures. From 1994 until the end of 1999 he was a research associate/professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder, investigating salt tectonics in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Bruce is now in his third stint at Imperial College, having rejoined the department as a lecturer in geology and geophysics. His main research interests lie in the tectonics of sedimentary basins and, in particular, the growth of normal fault structures and the role of salt in controlling basin evolution. Bruce teaches 3-D seismic interpretation and advanced structural interpretation of seismic data in the petroleum geoscience M.Sc. course. He is also a leader on the annual M.Sc. field trip to the Book Cliffs and Paradox basin in Utah.


This work evolved from an earlier study into relay ramps and fault linkages funded by Fina Exploration Ltd., in the United Kingdom. I thank Joe Cartwright and Chris Mansfield, my coworkers at that time, for stimulating discussions in the field. For their thought-provoking comments since then, I thank Patience Cowie, Nancye Dawers, Mark Cooper, and Sanjeev Gupta. A particularly helpful review by Hugh Sinclair is gratefully acknowledged. Finally, I thank the staff at the Canyonlands Visitor Center for their assistance and support in carrying out this work.


The Canyonlands grabens in southeast Utah form an active exten sional fault array covering 200 km2 southeast of the Colorado River. The fault array formed as a result of gravity gliding above a thick layer of salt. Growth of this fault array within the last 0.5 m.y. (possibly last 0.1 m.y.) has resulted in major changes in the stream drainages across the area through processes of stream capture and diversion. During growth of the fault array, relay ramps between overlapping fault segments form topographic lows along the graben margins. These commonly act as access points for captured streams to enter a graben system. As fault segments continue to propagate laterally, linkage leads to breaching of the relay ramp structures. This causes changes in the course and gradients of the streams, com monly shifting the locus of alluvial sediment deposition away from grabens that were previously infilling. This complex evolution of drainage networks in a growing fault array may provide a valuable analog to the early structural and stratigraphic development of larger continental rift systems. Reservoir distribution is an essential element of many hydrocarbon plays, and understanding the rela tionship between active fault growth and drainage evolution may help predict reservoir distribution and quality.

Pay-Per-View Purchase Options

The article is available through a document delivery service. Explain these Purchase Options.

Watermarked PDF Document: $14
Open PDF Document: $24

AAPG Member?

Please login with your Member username and password.

Members of AAPG receive access to the full AAPG Bulletin Archives as part of their membership. For more information, contact the AAPG Membership Department at [email protected].