Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Bristol Dry Lake, a 155 km2 continental-sabkha playa basin in the Mojave Desert of south eastern California, is filled with at least 300 m of interbedded terrigenous clastics, gypsum, anhydrite, and halite. Evaporite facies conform approximately to a bull's eye pattern with gypsum and anhydrite surrounding a basin centre accumulation of halite. Transects through Bristol Dry Lake, from the alluvial fan to the centre of the playa, reveal: (1) crudely-bedded, alluvial fan clastics interfingering with (2) playa-margin sand flat and wadi sand and silt, followed by (3) gypsum, anhydrite, chaotic mud halite, and clay of the saline mud flat, and (4) salt-pan halite beds.Terrigenous clastics were deposited in Bristol Dry Lake by sheetflow and by suspension settling from ponded floodwater. Some sediment has been reworked by aeolian processes to form barchan dunes around the playa margin. Thin nodular-like beds of anhydrite and several types of gypsum occur across most of the playa. Giant hopper-shaped halite cubes are suspended in saline mud flat facies, suggesting that they grew displacively in brine soaked sediment just below the surface. Thick beds (4 m) of halite, in the playa centre, may have formed through a complex alternating history of subaqueous and intrasedimentary precipitation under the influence of periodic floods, intense evaporation and brine-level lowering, and capillary discharge of brines.The stratigraphy in the playa centre is cyclic. An ideal cycle consists of: (1) chaotic mud halite at the base overlain by (2) green to red clay with abundant, giant hoppers, and at the top (3) red clay, gypsum, and anhydrite with flaser- to wavy-bedded sand and silt. This type of cycle probably records a gradual progradation of mud-flat facies over salt pans.Bristol Dry Lake sediments are nearly identical to some of the Permian evaporites of the Permian Basin region, U.S.A. and they can serve as modern analogues for ancient-sabkha facies analysis.
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