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Stratigraphic Architecture of a Fluvial-lacustrine Basin-fill Succession at Desolation Canyon, Uinta Basin, Utah: Reference to Walthers’ Law and Implications for the Petroleum Industry
A continuous window into the fluvial-lacustrine basin-fill succession of the Uinta Basin is exposed along a 48-mile (77-kilometer) transect up the modern Green River from Three Fords to Sand Wash in Desolation Canyon, Utah. In ascending order the stratigraphic units are: 1) Flagstaff Limestone, 2) lower Wasatch member of the Wasatch Formation, 3) middle Wasatch member of the Wasatch Formation, 4) upper Wasatch member of the Wasatch Formation, 5) Uteland Butte member of the lower Green River Formation, 6) lower Green River Formation, 7) Renegade Tongue of the lower Green River Formation, 8) middle Green River Formation, and 9) the Mahogany oil shale zone marking the boundary between the middle and upper Green River Formations. This article uses regional field mapping, geologic maps, photographs, and descriptions of the stratigraphic unit including: 1) bounding surfaces, 2) key upward stratigraphic characteristics within the unit, and 3) longitudinal changes along the river transect. This information is used to create a north-south cross section through the basin-fill succession and a detailed geologic map of Desolation Canyon. The cross section documents stratigraphic relationships previously unreported and contrasts with earlier interpretations in two ways: 1) abrupt upward shifts in the stratigraphy documented herein, contrast with the gradual interfingering relationships proposed by Ryder et al., (1976) and Fouch et al., (1994), 2) we document fluvial deposits of the lower and middle Wasatch to be distinct and more widespread than previously recognized. In addition, we document that the Uteland Butte member of the lower Green River Formation was deposited in a lacustrine environment in Desolation Canyon.
Two large-scale (member-scale) upward patterns are noted: Waltherian, and non-Waltherian. The upward successions in Waltherian progressions record progradation or retrogradation of a linked fluvial-lacustrine system across the area; whereas the upward successions in non-Waltherian progressions record large-scale changes in the depositional system that are not related to progradation or retrogradation of the ancient lacustrine shoreline. Four Waltherian progressions are noted: 1) the Flagstaff Limestone to lower Wasatch Formation member records the upward transition from lacustrine to fluvial—or shallowing-upward succession; 2) the upper Wasatch to Uteland Butte records the upward transition from fluvial to lacustrine—or a deepening upward succession; 3) the Uteland Butte to Renegade Tongue records the upward transition from lacustrine to fluvial—a shallowing-upward succession; and 4) the Renegade Tongue to Mahogany oil shale interval records the upward transition from fluvial to lacustrine—a deepening upward succession. The two non-Waltherian progressions in the study area are: 1) the lower to middle Wasatch, which records the abrupt shift from low to high net-sand content fluvial system, and 2) the middle to upper Wasatch, which records the abrupt shift from high to intermediate net-sand content fluvial system.
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