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Architecture and Channel-Belt Clustering in the Fluvial lower Wasatch Formation, Uinta Basin, Utah

Abstract

The Eocene lower Wasatch Formation of the Uinta Basin contains exceptional outcrops of low net-sand content (37% sand) fluvial strata. This study quantitatively documents the stratigraphy of a 7 km wide by 300 meter thick strike-oriented outcrop in order to develop a quantitative data base that can be used to improve our knowledge of how some fluvial systems evolve over geologic time scales. Data used to document the outcrop are: (1) 550 meters of decimeter to half meter scale resolution stratigraphic columns that document grain size and physical sedimentary structures; (2) detailed photopanels used to document architectural style and lithofacies types in the outcrop; (3) thickness, width, and spatial position for all channel belts in the outcrop, and (4) directional measurements of paleocurrent indicators. Two channel-belt styles are recognized: lateral and downstream accreting channel belts; both of which occur as either single or multi-story. Floodplain strata are well exposed and consist of overbank fines and sand-rich crevasse splay deposits. Key upward and lateral characteristics of the outcrop documented herein are the following. First, the shapes of 243 channels are documented. The average width, thickness and aspect ratios of the channel belts are 110 m, 7 m, and 16:1, respectively. Importantly, the size and shape of channel belts does not change upward through the 300 meter transect. Second, channels are documented to spatially cluster. 9 clusters are documented using a spatial statistic. Key upward patterns in channel belt clustering are a marked change from non-amalgamated isolated channel-belt clusters to amalgamated channel-belt clusters. Critically, stratal surfaces can be correlated from mudstone units within the clusters to time-equivalent floodplain strata adjacent to the cluster demonstrating that clusters are not confined within fluvial valleys. Finally, proportions of floodplain and channel belt elements underlying clusters and channel belts vary with the style of clusters and channel belts laterally and vertically within the outcrop.