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AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 87, No. 12 (December 2003), P. 1883-1909.

Copyright copy2003. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

Depositional remnants, part 2: Examples from the Western Interior Cretaceous basin of North America

Randi S. Martinsen

Institute for Energy Research, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071-3006; [email protected]


Randi Martinsen is a senior lecturer in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming. Previously, she worked for Cities Service Company, Denver, Colorado, and as a consulting petroleum geologist. She has worked extensively on the Western Interior Cretaceous basin and is particularly interested in stratigraphic trap exploration, paleotectonic influences on depositional systems, and clastic reservoir characterization.


Many individuals contributed to this study by sharing their experience and knowledge, especially Lee Krystinik, Jeanne Harris, and Gus Gustason. The manuscript benefited greatly from feedback provided by Jeff Crabaugh, Robbie Gries, Gus Gustason, Ron Steel, Jim Steidtmann, Rod Tillman, and Bob Weimer. I also appreciate the careful and constructive criticism and comments of AAPG Editor John Lorenz and reviewers Janok Bhattacharya, Jack Thomas, Kathy Bergman, Rick Erickson, and an anonymous reviewer. I am most grateful for the love and support of my husband, Jim Steidtmann, and for his editorial and scientific perspicacity.


The Western Interior Cretaceous basin contains numerous examples of depositional remnants (partially preserved portions of originally extensive depositional systems). Emphasis is placed on examples of accommodation remnants (i.e., a type of depositional remnant whose overlying erosion surface displays little relief and is preserved in an area of locally increased accommodation). Variations in spatial accommodation have been attributed to synsedimentary tectonics, erosional topography, differential compaction, and salt dissolution and are commonly associated with basement faults. Remnants range in size from small to very large (basin-scale), and larger remnants commonly contain several smaller remnants. Remnants of shallow-marine sandstone encased in shale are an important and common type of stratigraphic trap. Failure to recognize deposits as only remnants of depositional systems has led to misinterpretations of depositional environment and inaccurate paleogeographic reconstructions.

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