Although phylloid algal mounds have been studied for 50 year, much remains to be determined concerning the ecology and sedimentology of these Late Paleozoic carbonate buildups. Herein we perform a digital outcrop study of the well-known Middle Pennsylvanian Lower Ismay mound interval in the Paradox Basin because outcropping mounds along the San Juan River are cited as outcrop analogs of reservoir carbonates in the Paradox Basin oil province of Utah and adjacent states. The principal field area is the Eight Foot algal field located at river mile 19.2 on the San Juan River, approximately 14 miles SSW of Bluff, Utah. The Lower Ismay section is exposed on both sides of the river for 1.4 miles. Mechanisms for mound formation are still a heavily debated topic and even now aren't fully understood. While this study does not seek to solely answer this question, it does shed some light on the argument. A combined total station-LIDAR survey of the exposed Eight Foot mounds indicates that the mound field is comprised of 83 individual and composite mounds that have an average height of 10.9 meters and peak spacing of 48.8 meters. Further, statistical examination of survey data reveals a correlation between mound height and east-west alignment, showing that shelfward mounds were slightly taller than their more basinward counterparts.. However, other shape parameters do not appear to vary systematically across the algal field. Curve-fitting indicates that the overall mound morphology does not differ significantly from a Gaussian surface indicating that mounds are conical in shape. This suggests that mounds did not form under the influence of directional currents such as waves or tides. Yet, Ivanovia-fragment packstone and grainstone facies typical of the mound interval suggest a high-energy depositional setting.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Geological Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





Carbonate, algal, 3d, morphology, Ivanovia, geology, mound, aneth field, utah



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Geology Commons