Late Cenozoic Geomorphic Evolution of the Texas Panhandle and Northeastern New Mexico: Case Studies of Structural Controls of Regional Drainage Development




Gustavson, Thomas C.
Finley, Robert J.

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Salt dissolution has affected parts of the Upper Permian Salado, Seven Rivers, San Andres, Glorieta, and upper Clear Fork Formations beneath the Pecos River Valley in eastern New Mexico and beneath the Canadian River Valley and the Rolling Plains of the Texas Panhandle. Extensive dissolution of the salts of the Salado and Seven Rivers Formations has also occurred beneath the Southern High Plains. The cumulative thickness of salt lost to dissolution exceeds 150 m (500 ft) along the western, northern, and eastern margins of the Palo Duro Basin.

Dissolution and subsidence occurred during the deposition of the Tertiary Ogallala Formation, but Ogallala deposition kept pace with subsidence. Following the end of Ogallala deposition in the late Pliocene, surface subsidence resulted in lacustrine basins along trends of relatively rapid dissolution. Preserved lacustrine sediments contain Blancan faunas, confirming minimum late Pliocene ages for the basins.

Continued subsidence along trends of relatively rapid dissolution during the late Tertiary and early Quaternary resulted in a series of basins that diverted many of the streams flowing southeasterly across the Southern High Plains. As a result of subsidence, the headwaters of the ancestral Brazos River were diverted during the middle Pleistocene from a southeasterly drainage through the Portales paleovalley to a southerly drainage through the Pecos Valley. The present-day headwaters of the Canadian River are probably a former tributary of the Pecos-Portales-Brazos system that was diverted to the northeast along a subsidence trend caused by dissolution during the late Pliocene or early Quaternary.


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