Magnetostratigraphy of Upper Cretaceous strata in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, southern Utah: The Santonian-Campanian Stage boundary, reassessment of the C33N/C33R magnetochron boundary, and implications for regional sedimentation patterns within the Sevier Foreland Basin

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Samples were collected for magnetostratigraphic analysis from the Upper Cretaceous Straight Cliffs and Wahweap formations within Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, southern Utah, in an attempt to locate the C34n-C33r and C33r-C33n boundaries; the former approximates the Santonian-Campanian Stage boundary. Locating both of these horizons within the Monument provides for refined temporal resolution of the many new fossil localities discovered in these units, while also adding to our understanding of the overall Straight Cliffs-Wahweap sequence stratigraphic architecture. Results indicate that the John Henry and Drip Tank members of the Straight Cliffs Formation are of normal polarity, and represent the later part of C34n, the Cretaceous Normal Polarity Super-Chron. The C34n-C33r boundary apparently resides in a significant hiatus determined to occur between the Drip Tank Member of the Straight Cliffs Formation and the lower part of the overlying Wahweap Formation. In stratigraphically ascending order, the informally named lower, middle, and most of the upper members of the Wahweap Formation are of reversed polarity. The C33r-C33n polarity change occurs in the upper part of the upper member, and C33n continues stratigraphically upward through the capping sand member of the Wahweap Formation and into the overlying Kaiparowits Formation. The presence of over 200 m of reversely magnetized strata above a level in the lower part of the middle member dated to 79.9 ± 0.3 Ma, which coincides with the GTS2012 date for the C33r-C33n boundary of 79.9 Ma, suggests that the published age of that boundary may be in error. A new date of approximately 78.91 Ma is proposed, in turn allowing for the thick sequence of reversely magnetized strata above the 79.9 Ma level. Age revision of the Kaiparowits Basin's Late Cretaceous record demonstrates that during late Santonian through early middle Campanian time, except in central Utah, a close correlation in time and facies successions with other successions throughout the Western Interior Basin suggests a eustatic influence on the depositional patterns. Starting in the late middle Campanian, the Kaiparowits record, along with those both to the north and south, appear to diverge in style and facies successions. We consider this to have resulted from a fundamental change in depositional controls triggered by the Laramide Orogeny. The anomalous central Utah record appears to have been profoundly influenced by a massive salient (Nebo-Charleston thrust system) in the Sevier Fold and Thrust belt that was active for much of the Late Cretaceous.

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Cretaceous Research



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