Cotton Valley (Upper Jurassic) and Hosston (Lower Cretaceous) depositional systems and their influence on salt tectonics in the East Texas Basin

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McGowen, Mary K.
Harris, David W.

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University of Texas at Austin. Bureau of Economic Geology


Correct interpretation of the effect of basin infilling on salt mobilization is critical to understanding salt dome growth and stability. The size of salt structures in the East Texas Basin is determined by the original thickness of the underlying Louann Salt (Middle Jurassic). That is, salt structures distinctly increase in size toward the interior of the basin. Initial movement of salt apparently occurred in the marginal areas of the basin during Smackover (Late Jurassic) deposition. This movement seems to have resulted from downward creep induced by the loading of carbonate units and was enhanced by basinward tilting. During a major shift from carbonate to clastic sedimentation in the Late Jurassic, salt movement became more extensive. This salt migration was caused by uneven sediment loading of fluvial-deltaic systems in the Cotton Valley Group (Upper Jurassic) and the Hosston Formation (Lower Cretaceous). Erosion source areas on the west and north persisted throughout Cotton Valley and Hosston time. Clastics were delivered to the East Texas Basin by many small streams, rather than by one major stream, because a mature drainage system had not yet formed.
The Cotton Valley Group, thought to be a fan-delta system, can be subdivided into three types of facies: prodelta deposits, delta-front deposits, and braided fluvial deposits. Fan deltas, supplied by braided streams, prograded from the north, northwest, and west. Dip-oriented sandstone trends dominate in the northwestern part of the basin and change basinward to northeast to southwest strike-oriented trends.
During Hosston time, sedimentation in the northwestern part of the basin was predominantly fluvial. The depositional characteristics of sediments in this area are typical of braided streams. In the study area, parallel net-sandstone and sediment chucks are clearly defined in the distal part of the Cotton Valley but are not as well defined in the Hosston. This suggests that most deltaic sedimentation during Hosston time occurred basinward of the study area. A major transgression at the end of Hosston time resulted in the deposition of the Pettet Limestone.
Apparently, the location of salt domes and salt anticlines was controlled by the position of the Smackover-Gilmer carbonate platform. This platform impeded local subsidence to the extent that fan-delta sediments of the Cotton Valley Group spread laterally across the shelf rather than stacked vertically. Sediment depocenters formed preferentially basinward of the platform, resulting in migration of the underlying salt into ridges that fronted the prograding sediment wedge. As the salt was depleted under these depocenters, subsidence slowed and thereby allowed the fan deltas to override the salt ridges. This resulted in a basinward progradation of deltaic depocenters and produced younger depocenters toward the interior of the basin. Further salt migration and differentiation of salt ridges produced the present complex array of salt domes and anticlines in the East Texas Basin. Seismic and gravity data clearly demonstrate the existence of these salt ridges and intervening sediment thicknesses.


Bureau Publication GC8405 - to purchase a print copy please go to: Reprinted from the Jurassic of the Gulf Rim / edited by William P.S. Ventress ... [et al.] : Proceedings of the Third Annual Research Conference, Gulf Coast Section, Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists Foundation, 1984. U.S. Department of Energy. No. DE-AC97-8OET46617

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McGowen, M.K., and Harris, D. W., 1984, Cotton Valley (Upper Jurassic) and Hosston (Lower Cretaceous) Depositional Systems and Their Influence on Salt Tectonics in the East Texas Basin: The University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology, Geological Circular 84-5, 41 p.