Stratigraphy and geologic history of the Montana group and equivalent rocks, Montana, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota

Professional Paper 776
By:  and 



During Late Cretaceous time a broad north-trending epicontinental sea covered much of the western interior of North America and extended from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. The sea was bounded on the west by a narrow, unstable, and constantly rising cordillera which extended from Central America to Alaska and which separated the sea from Pacific oceanic waters. The east margin of the sea was bounded by the low-lying stable platform of the central part of the United States.

Rocks of the type Montana Group in Montana and equivalent rocks in adjacent States, which consist of eastward-pointing wedges of shallow-water marine and nonmarine strata that enclose westward-pointing wedges of fine-grained marine strata, were deposited in and marginal to this sea. These rocks range in age from middle Santonian to early Maestrichtian and represent a time span of about 14 million years. Twenty-nine distinctive ammonite zones, each with a time span of about half a million years, characterize the marine strata.

Persistent beds of bentonite in the transgressive part of the Claggett and Bearpaw Shales of Montana and equivalent rocks elsewhere represent periods of explosive volcanism and perhaps concurrent subsidence along the west shore in the vicinity of the Elkhorn Mountains and the Deer Creek volcanic fields in Montana. Seaward retreat of st randlines, marked by deposition of the Telegraph Creek, Eagle, Judith River, and Fox Hills Formations in Montana and the Mesaverde Formation in Wyoming, may be attributed to uplift in near-coastal areas and to an increase in volcaniclastic rocks delivered to the sea.

Rates of transgression and regression determined for the Montana Group in central Montana reveal that the strandline movement was more rapid during times of transgression. The regression of the Telegraph Creek and Eagle strandlines averaged about 50 miles per million years compared with a rate of about 95 miles per million years for the advance of the strand-line during Claggett time. The Judith River regression averaged about 60 miles per million years compared with movement of the strandline during the Bearpaw advance of about 70 miles per million years.

The final retreat of marine waters from Montana, marked by the Fox Hills regression, was about 35 miles per million years at first, but near the end of the regression it accelerated to a rate of about 500 miles per million years.

Rates of sedimentation range from less than 50 feet per million years in the eastern parts of North and South Dakota to at least 2,500 feet in western Wyoming. The low rates in the Dakotas correspond well with modern rates in the open ocean, and the rates in western Wyoming approach the rate of present coastal sedimentation.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Stratigraphy and geologic history of the Montana group and equivalent rocks, Montana, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota
Series title Professional Paper
Series number 776
DOI 10.3133/pp776
Year Published 1973
Language English
Publisher U.S. Government Printing Office
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Description iii, 37 p.
Country United States
State Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming
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