The Late Cretaceous Trail Member of the Ericson Sandstone represents a regionally extensive fluvial system that transported sediments from the Sevier fold and thrust belt and Uinta Mountain uplift to the Western Interior Seaway. The Trail Member is a petroleum reservoir target that has unpredictable production rates due to the unknown behavior and connectivity of channel sandstones. The abundant outcrop, wellbore, and core data available allows for a comprehensive analysis of how the fluvial architecture, connectivity, and reservoir quality change along 65 km of depositional dip. Observations made at Flaming Gorge and Clay Basin (most landward field locations) suggest a highly mobile fluvial system that was influenced by both autogenic channel clustering and allogenic forcing. Evidence is seen for movement along the Sevier fold and thrust belt and early Laramide uplift of the Uinta Mountains. Specifically, three zones identify temporal tectonic changes throughout deposition of the Trail Member. The Upper and Lower Trail zones represent times of low accommodation as the fluvial system must avulse and move laterally to find available space. The Middle Trail zone represents a higher accommodation setting with internal autogenic channel clustering. This shows that on a finer timescale, autogenic processes control sediment distribution, while on a longer timescale, external drivers, specifically tectonics, control the distribution of sediment in the Trail fluvial system. Significant changes were observed within the Trail Member towards the basin. At Northern Colorado, lenticular, fluvial-dominated sands are still common, preserved organic and woody material, mud cracks, and increased bioturbation are observed that are not present elsewhere. The sandstone channels are slightly wider, have more common occurrences of low flow-regime sedimentary structures such as ripples and mud cracks, and appear to be more individually isolated with thin fine-grained material surrounding the channels. On a larger scale, photogrammetric analysis shows a rapid lateral change (0.3 km) from a sand-rich, channel-dominated expression to a mud-rich, channel-poor character. These observations suggest a lower energy fluvial system focused within a possible incised valley showing that the fluvial system is being influenced primarily by eustatic forces, rather than tectonics. Subsurface data from twelve wells located north of the Northern Colorado locality show a rapid (15 km) increase in thickness (97 m to 182 m) and decrease in net-to-gross (89.3% to 65.3%). Early subsidence of the Washakie sub-basin just east of the wells could account for the rapid increase in accommodation. Another possible explanation for the rapid thickness increase to the northeast could be the presence of an incised valley. These possibilities show the complexity of the environment within which the Trail Member fluvial system deposited sediments.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Geological Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





Trail Member, porosity and permeability, net-to-gross, fluvial architecture, Sevier fold and thrust belt, Uinta Mountain uplift, reservoir, photogrammetry, facies



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Geology Commons