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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

Journal of Sedimentary Research (SEPM)


Journal of Sedimentary Research
Vol. 85 (2015), No. 4. (April), Pages 315-336
Research Articles

Quantitative Analysis of the Dimensions and Distribution of Channelized Fluvial Sandbodies Within A Large Outcrop Dataset: Upper Cretaceous Blackhawk Formation, Wasatch Plateau, Central Utah, U.S.A.

Yvette S. Flood, Gary J. Hampson


Conceptual and quantitative models of fluvial stratigraphy typically argue that alluvial architecture is driven by a combination of allogenic processes (e.g., tectonic subsidence, sea level, sediment supply), and autogenic behaviors (e.g., avulsion). We test these models via analysis of a large (c. 200 m thick by 100 km depositional-strike extent) alluvial-to-coastal-plain succession that records shoreline progradation in response to decreasing tectonic subsidence (Late Cretaceous Blackhawk Formation, Wasatch Plateau, central Utah, U.S.A.). Oblique aerial photographs and architectural panels of six nearly linear, nearly vertical cliff face “windows” were used to characterize the dimensions (apparent widths, thicknesses) and spatial distributions of channelized fluvial sandbodies. Two statistical measures, raster-based lacunarity and point-based L-function, are used to investigate whether the distribution of channelized sandbodies show significant regularity, randomness, or clustering.

Over 490 channelized fluvial sandbodies are identified in the six cliff-face “windows.” From base to top of the Blackhawk Formation, sandbodies broadly increase in width and decrease in overall abundance per unit area. Clustering of sandbodies occurs relatively frequently in lower-coastal-plain strata (< 50 km from the coeval shoreline). Spatial regularity of sandbody spacing is consistently more apparent in upper-coastal-plain and alluvial strata (> 50 km from the coeval shoreline). A strong negative correlation between lacunarity and stratigraphic position is also observed, such that a wider range and greater variety of spatial gaps occurs between sandbodies in lower-coastal-plain strata relative to upper-coastal-plain and alluvial strata.

Comparison with numerical modeling studies of fluvial stratigraphic architecture implies the predominance of an avulsion-generated pattern of sandbody distribution that includes an element of compensational stacking on the upper coastal plain and alluvial plain, for a range of distances from the coeval shoreline (c. 40–130 km) and tectonic subsidence rates (c. 40–700 m/ Myr). On the lower coastal plain (< 50 km from the coeval shoreline) localized clustering of channelized sandbodies is interpreted to have formed by avulsion of deltaic distributary channels downstream of delta-apex avulsion nodes, possibly modulated by low-amplitude (< 30 m) sea-level fluctuations.

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