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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists


The Mountain Geologist
Vol. 58 (2021), No. 3. (July), Pages 211-248

The type section of the Codell Sandstone

James W. Hagadorn, Richard J. Bottjer, Christopher S. Holm-Denoma, Mark W. Longman, Virginia A. Gent, Jonathan B. Sumrall


We formally assign, describe and interpret a principal reference section for the middle Turonian Codell Sandstone Member of the Carlile Shale near Codell, Kansas. This section, at the informally named Pumpjack Road, provides the thickest surface expression (9 m, ∼30 ft) of the unit in Ellis County. The outcrop exposes features that typify the Codell throughout the southern Denver Basin and vicinity. At this reference section, the Codell conformably overlies the Blue Hill Shale Member of the Carlile Shale and is unconformably overlain by the Fort Hays Limestone Member of the Niobrara Formation or locally by a thin (<0.9 m, <3 ft) discontinuous mudstone known as the Antonino facies. The top contact of the Codell is slightly undulatory with possible compaction features or narrow (<30.5 m, <100 ft), low-relief (0.3-0.6 m, 1-2 ft) scours, all of which hint that the Codell is a depositional remnant, even at the type section.

At Pumpjack Road, the Codell coarsens upward from a recessive-weathering argillaceous medium-grained siltstone with interbedded mudstone at its base to a more indurated cliff-forming muddy, highly bioturbated, very fine-grained sandstone at its top. The unit contains three informal gradational packages: a lower Codell of medium to coarse siltstone and mudstone, a middle Codell of muddy coarse siltstone, and an upper muddy Codell dominated by well-sorted very fine-grained sandstone. The largest grain fractions, all <120 mm in size, are mostly quartz (40-80%), potassium feldspar (7-12%), and albite (1-2%), with some chert (<15%), zircon, and other constituents such as abraded phosphatic skeletal debris. Rare fossil fish teeth and bones also occur. Detrital and authigenic clays make up 9 to 42% of the Codell at the reference section. Detrital illite and mixed layer illite/smectite are common, along with omnipresent kaolinite as grain coatings or cement.

As is typical for the Codell, the sandstone at the type section has been pervasively bioturbated. Most primary structures and bedding are obscured, particularly toward the top of the unit where burrows are larger, deeper and more diverse than at its base. This bioturbation has created a textural inversion in which the larger silt and sand grains are very well sorted but are mixed with mud. Detrital zircons from the upper Codell are unusual in that they are mostly prismatic to acicular, euhedral, colorless, unpitted, and unabraded, and have a near-unimodal age peak centered at ∼94 Ma. These characteristics suggest they were reworked mainly from Cenomanian bentonites; their ultimate source was likely from the Cordilleran orogenic belt to the west and northwest.

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