Quantification of a distributive fluvial system; the Salt Wash DFS of the Morrison Formation, SW USA

Amanda Owen, Gary J. Nichols, Adrian J. Hartley, Gary S. Weissmann, Louis A. Scuderi

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98 Citations (Scopus)
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Recent analysis of modern aggradational continental sedimentary basins reveals that sedimentation patterns are dominated by distributive fluvial systems (DFSs). The Salt Wash Member of the Late Jurassic Morrison Formation has previously been described as a fan-shaped fluvial system. This study characterizes facies variations across the Salt Wash DFS to qualitatively test predicted trends in conceptual DFS models. Notable proximal-to-distal trends include a change in total thickness of the fluvial succession from 174 m to 40 m, and in average grain size from coarse sand to silt, while the percentage of sand decreased from 70% in the proximal region to 8% in the distal region. The proportion of amalgamated channel-belt deposits decreased from 67% to 0%, while floodplain facies and lacustrine deposits increase (38% to 94% and 0.1% to 7% respectively). A downstream decrease in average channel belt thickness (15 m to 3.8 m, from thickest to thinnest) and average story thickness (7.7 m to 2.3 m, from thickest to thinnest) is also recorded. Significant downstream changes in deposit architecture were also noted, with proximal regions dominated by stacked channel belt deposits with a high degree of amalgamation. Distal deposits are dominated by floodplain muds and sheet sandstones and sparse ribbon channels, with little to no amalgamation of channel deposits. This study provides quantified information for an ancient DFS with the aim of providing a dataset that can be used for objective comparison between different DFSs, as well as providing numerical data to aid resource exploration and modelling efforts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)544-561
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Sedimentary Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


  • distributive fluvial system
  • salt wash member
  • Morrison Formation
  • quantified
  • fluvial


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