New Insights on the Impact of Tidal Currents on a Low-gradient, Semi-enclosed, Epicontinental Basin—the Curtis Formation, East-central Utah, USA
Based on a methodic sedimentological analysis, the Late Jurassic (Oxfordian) Curtis Formation unravels the intricate facies variability which occurs in a tide-dominated, fluvially starved, low-gradient, semi-enclosed epicontinental basin. This unit crops out in east-central Utah, between the eolian deposits of the underlying Middle Jurassic (Callovian) Entrada Sandstone, from which it is separated by the J-3 unconformity, and the conformable overlying supratidal Summerville Formation of Oxfordian age. A high-resolution sedimentary analysis of the succession led to the recognition of eight facies associations (FA) with six sub-facies associations. Based on the specific three-dimensional arrangement of these eight facies associations, it is proposed to separate the Curtis Formation into three sub-units: the lower, middle and upper Curtis. The J-3 unconformity defines the base of the lower Curtis, which consists of upper shoreface to beach deposits (FA 2), mud-dominated (FA 3a) and sand-dominated heterolithic subtidal flat (FA 3b), sand-rich sub- to supratidal flat (FA 4a) and correlative tidal channel infill (FA 4c). It is capped by the middle Curtis, which coincides with the sub- to intertidal channel-dune-flat complex of FA 5, and its lower boundary corresponds to a transgressive surface of regional extent, identified as the Major Transgressive Surface (MTS). This surface suggests a potential correlation between the middle and the upper Curtis and the neighboring Todilto Member of the Wanakah Formation or Todilto Formation. The upper Curtis consists of the heterolithic upper sub- to intertidal flat (FA 6) and coastal dry eolian dunes belonging to the Moab Member of the Curtis Formation (FA 7), and it conformably overlies the middle Curtis.
The spatial distribution of these sub-units supports the distinction of three different sectors across the study area: sector 1 in the north, sector 2 in the south-southwest, and sector 3 in the east. In sector 1, the Curtis Formation is represented by its three sub-units, whereas sector 2 is dominated by the middle and upper Curtis, and sector 3 encompasses the extent of the Moab Member of the Curtis Formation.
This study also highlights the composite nature of the J-3 unconformity, which was impacted by various processes occurring before the Curtis Formation was deposited, as well as during the development of the lower and middle Curtis. Local collapse features within the lower and middle Curtis are linked to sand fluid overpressure within a remobilized sandy substratum, potentially triggered by seismic activity. Furthermore, the occurrence of a sub-regional angular relationship between the middle Curtis and substratum implies that the area of study was impacted by a regional deformational event during the Late Jurassic, before the deposition of the middle Curtis.
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