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Volcaniclastic Alluvial Fan Sedimentation, Northern Rio Grande Rift

John G. McPherson, Damon B. Waresback, Stephen Self

The Pliocene Puye Formation is a well-exposed, volcanogenic, alluvial fan sequence 150+ m thick, representing a range of volcaniclastic deposits (proximal, medial, and distal) that may be generated in response to long-lived, multicompositional (basaltic to rhyolitic) volcanism in a rift setting. The deposits are a composite of eruptives (effusives and pyroclastics) and epiclastics (reworked primary volcanics). An almost complete record of source-area volcanics (style, intensity, and composition) is preserved in the volcaniclastic fan deposits, as sedimentation rates were high and basinal subsidence was continuous because of concomitant rift downfaulting.

At least eight silicic, primary airfall beds are interstratified through the fan deposits and provide a reliable stratigraphic control for establishing vertical and lateral lithofacies correlations. Proximal (inner fan) lithofacies include voluminous block-and-ash deposits that have downfan facies equivalents as pyroclastic flows and mudflows. Other proximal facies include very coarse clast-bearing debris flows, boulder-rich stream-channel and hyperconcentrated flood-flow deposits, and minor sheet-flood sequences. Medial (midfan) deposits display the greatest variability in lithofacies and provide details of the rate and intensity of volcanism by means of a distinctive vertical lithofacies assemblage: a basal Plinian layer, stacked debris flows, and stacked mudflows, capped by a fluvi l reworking phase of interstratified stream-channel and sheetflood deposits. Debris flows (clast and matrix rich), mudflows, and hyperconcentrated flood-flow deposits are abundant; the latter show evidence of transformation to mudflows with increasing transport distance, as they incorporate added fines (ash). Sheetflood deposits increase in number and thickness at the expense of stream-channel deposits. Distal (outer fan) deposits are predominantly of sheetflood and shallow channeled, braided-stream origin. Mudflow deposits are also common and some debris flows persist, but they are relatively thin and carry finer grained clasts.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91043©1986 AAPG Annual Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, June 15-18, 1986.