Internal mouth-bar variability and preservation of subordinate coastal processes in low-accommodation proximal deltaic settings (Cretaceous Dakota Group, New Mexico, USA)

Anna E. van Yperen*, Miquel Poyatos-Moré, John M. Holbrook, Ivar Midtkandal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Mouth bars are the fundamental architectural elements of proximal deltaic successions. Understanding their internal architecture and complex interaction with coastal processes (fluvial, tide and wave-dominated) is paramount to the interpretation of ancient deltaic successions. This is particularly challenging in low-accommodation systems, because they are commonly characterized by thin, condensed and top-truncated sections. This study analyses the exhumed Cenomanian Mesa Rica Sandstone (Dakota Group, Western Interior Seaway, USA), a fluvio-deltaic system covering a ca 450 km depositional dip-parallel profile. The study targets the proximal deltaic expression of the system, using 22 sedimentary logs (total of 390 m) spatially correlated within a ca 25 km2 study area at the rim of the Tucumcari Basin. Analysis of facies distributions, depositional architecture and spatial extent of stratigraphic surfaces reveals a 6–10 m thick, sharp-based and sand-prone deltaic package, comprising several laterally extensive (>1.4 km width) mouth bars. Composite erosional surfaces infilled with multi-storey fluvial and marine-influenced channel deposits (12–20 m thick, 100–250 m wide) scour locally into the deltaic package. Based on differences in sedimentary structures, bed thicknesses, occurrence of interflood beds and bioturbation indexes, four different sub-environments within single mouth bars were distinguished. These range from mouth-bar axis, off-axis, fringe to distal-fringe deposits, which reflect waning depositional energy with increasing distance from the distributary channel mouth. The interpreted mouth-bar components also show internal variability in dominant process regime, with overall river dominance but local preservation of tide influence in the fringe and distal fringe components. Mouth-bar deposits amalgamate to form an extensive sand-rich sheet body throughout the study area, in which interflood mudstone to very-fine grained sandstone beds are nearly absent. These features reflect successive coalescence of mouth bars in a low accommodation/supply (A/S) setting. These conditions promoted recurrent channel avulsion/bifurcation and thus the potential reworking of previously deposited mouth-bar fringe and distal-fringe sediments, where time and background processes are better recorded. Results of this study evidence internal process-regime variability within mouth-bar components. They also caution against the possible loss of preservation of subordinate coastal processes (e.g. tidal indicators), and consequent underestimation of the true mixed influence in low-accommodation deltaic settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-458
Number of pages28
JournalDepositional Record
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • Coastal processes
  • Dakota Group
  • delta
  • interflood beds
  • low accommodation
  • mouth bar
  • preservation

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