Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5256
In the Bighorn Basin of north-central Wyoming and south-central Montana, the Frontier Formation of early Late Cretaceous age consists of siliciclastic, bentonitic, and carbonaceous beds that were deposited in marine, brackish-water, and continental environments. Most lithologic units are laterally discontinuous. The Frontier Formation conformably overlies the Mowry Shale and is conformably overlain by the Cody Shale. Molluscan fossils collected from outcrops of these formations and listed in this report are mainly of marine origin and of Cenomanian, Turonian, and Coniacian ages.
The lower and thicker part of the Frontier in the Bighorn Basin is of Cenomanian age and laterally equivalent to the Belle Fourche Member of the Frontier in central Wyoming. Near the west edge of the basin, these basal strata are disconformably overlain by middle Turonian beds that are the age equivalent of the Emigrant Gap Member of the Frontier in central Wyoming. The middle Turonian beds are disconformably overlain by lower Coniacian strata. Cenomanian strata along the south and east margins of the basin are disconformably overlain by upper Turonian beds in the upper part of the Frontier, as well as in the lower part of the Cody; these are, in turn, conformably overlain by lower Coniacian strata.
Thicknesses and ages of Cenomanian strata in the Bighorn Basin and adjoining regions are evidence of regional differential erosion and the presence of an uplift during the early Turonian centered in northwestern Wyoming, west of the basin, probably associated with a eustatic event. The truncated Cenomanian strata were buried by lower middle Turonian beds during a marine transgression and possibly during regional subsidence and a eustatic rise. An uplift in the late middle Turonian, centered in north-central Wyoming and possibly associated with a eustatic fall, caused the erosion of lower middle Turonian beds in southern and eastern areas of the basin as well as in an adjoining region of north-central Wyoming. Similarly, in east-central Wyoming and an adjacent area to the south, Cenomanian strata are disconformably overlain by upper middle and lower upper Turonian strata that probably reflect uplift and erosion in that region during the interim period of middle Turonian time.
During later subsidence and a marine transgression, upper Turonian deposits buried Cenomanian beds in areas along the south and east margins of the Bighorn Basin and buried lower middle Turonian beds in much of northern Wyoming. Upper Turonian and lower Coniacian strata are apparently conformable in eastern and southern areas of the basin as well as near Riverton, Kaycee, and Casper in central Wyoming. Upper Turonian strata are absent on the west flank of the Bighorn Basin and in outcrops west of the basin, where middle Turonian beds are disconformably overlain by lower Coniacian beds . The conformable upper Turonian and lower Coniacian beds apparently transgressed an eroded middle Turonian surface in the region, but only Coniacian strata overlie middle Turonian beds on the west side of the basin and areas farther west. Coniacian strata onlap the truncated lower middle Turonian surface west of the basin, indicating a region that had higher elevation possibly resulting from tectonic uplift.
In east-central Wyoming and an adjoining region to the south, upper middle Turonian and lower upper Turonian strata are disconformably overlain by lower and middle Coniacian beds. That region apparently was uplifted and eroded during the latest Turonian.
First posted May 10, 2010
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Merewether, E.A., Cobban, W.A., and Tillman, R.W., 2010, Outcrops, fossils, geophysical logs, and tectonic interpretations of the Upper Cretaceous Frontier Formation and contiguous strata in the Bighorn Basin, Wyoming and Montana: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5256, 49 p.
Outcrops near Deep Lake, Wyoming
Outcrops near Cody, Wyoming
Outcrops near Elk Butte, Wyoming
Outcrops in the Pitchfork Oil Field, Wyoming
Outcrops at Hamilton Dome, Coal Draw, and near Thermopolis, Wyoming
Outcrops at Black Mountain, Wyoming
Outcrops near Shanty Ridge and Big Trails, Wyoming
Outcrops at Mud Gulch and Joe Emge Creek, Wyoming
Outcrops near Ten Sleep, Wyoming
Outcrops at Bonanza Oil Field, Wyoming
Outcrops near Greybull, Wyoming
Outcrops at Lovell Draw and North Emblem, Wyoming
Outcrops at Crooked Creek, Wyoming
Outcrops near Warren, Montana
Interpretations and Conclusions