Early Pliocene Marine Transgression into the Lower Colorado River Valley, Southwestern USA, by Re-Flooding of a Former Tidal Strait

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: http://doi.org/10.1144/SP523-2021-57. This is version 1 of this Preprint.


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Rebecca Dorsey, Juan Carlos Braga Alarcón, Kevin Gardner, Brennan O'Connell


Marine straits and seaways are known to host a wide range of sedimentary processes and products, but the role of marine connections in the development of large river systems remains little studied. This study explores a hypothesis that shallow marine waters flooded the lower Colorado River valley at ~ 5 Ma along a fault-controlled former tidal straight, soon after the river was first integrated to the northern Gulf of California. The upper bioclastic member of the southern Bouse Formation provides a critical test of this hypothesis. The upper bioclastic member contains wave ripple-laminated bioclastic grainstone with minor red mudstone, pebbly grainstone with HCS-like stratification and symmetrical gravelly ripples, and calcareous-matrix conglomerate. Fossils include upward-branching segmented coralline-like red algae with no known modern relatives but confirmed as marine calcareous algae, echinoid spines, barnacles, shallow marine foraminifers, clams, and serpulid worm tubes. These results provide evidence for deposition in a shallow marine bay or estuary seaward of the transgressive backstepping Colorado River delta. Tsunamis generated by seismic and meteorologic sources likely produced the HCS-like and wave-ripple cross-bedding in poorly-sorted gravelly grainstone. Marine waters inundated a former tidal strait within a fault-bounded tectonic lowland that connected the lower Colorado River to the Gulf of California. Delta backstepping and transgression resulted from a decrease in sediment output due to sediment trapping in upstream basins and relative sea-level rise produced by regional tectonic subsidence.




Earth Sciences, Physical Sciences and Mathematics, Sedimentology, Stratigraphy, Tectonics and Structure


Pliocene, Paleontology, Colorado River


Published: 2021-09-29 10:57

Last Updated: 2021-09-29 14:57


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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