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Title: Flow depth estimates and avulsion behaviour in alluvial stratigraphy (Willwood Formation, Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, USA)

The size and geometry of river channels play a central role in sediment transport and the character of deposition within alluvial basins across spatiotemporal scales spanning the initiation of grain movement to the filling of accommodation generated by subsidence. This study compares several different approaches to estimating palaeoflow depths from fluvial deposits in the early Palaeogene Willwood Formation of north‐west Wyoming, USA. Fluvial story heights (n = 60) and mud plug thicknesses (n = 13) are statistically indistinguishable from one another and yield palaeoflow depth estimates of 4 to 6 m. The vertical relief on bar clinoforms (n = 112) yields smaller flow depths, by a factor ofca0.3, with the exception that the largest bar clinoforms match story heights and mud plug estimates. This observation is consistent with modern river data sets that indicate unit bar clinoforms do not capture the reach‐mean bank‐full flow depths except in rare circumstances. Future studies should use story heights (i.e. compound bar deposits) and mud plugs to estimate bank‐full flow depths in alluvial strata. Additionally, the thickness of multi‐storied fluvial sandbodies (n = 102) and overbank cycles composed of paired crevasse splay and palaeosol deposits (n = 45) were compared. The two depositional units display statistically indistinguishable mean and median values. Building upon previous depositional models, these observations suggest basin rivers aggraded approximately one flow depth prior to major avulsion. This avulsion process generated widespread crevasse splay deposition across the floodplain. Once the main river channel stem was reestablished, overbank flooding and palaeosol development dominated floodplain settings. The depositional model implies river aggradation autogenically generated topography in the basin that was effectively filled during the subsequent avulsion. This constitutes a meso‐timescale (103–104 years) compensational pattern driven by morphodynamics that may account for the high completeness of fossil and palaeoclimate records recovered from the basin.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Depositional Record
Medium: X Size: p. 935-958
["p. 935-958"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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