Ultra-high-resolution subsurface stratigraphy mapped from 3D ground-penetrating radar (GPR) can provide insights into the fine-scale heterogeneity of reservoirs and other geologic features. Analog models derived from 3D GPR aid in understanding reservoir compartmentalization that may be sub-seismic but still affect fluid flow. We integrate 2D profiles and 3D GPR volumes with measured stratigraphic sections from outcrop exposure to characterize the fine-scale stratigraphy of an ancient Lake Bonneville shoreline deposit (locally, circa 20 ka based on carbon-14 dating) in the Great Basin (northwestern Utah). The heterogeneity of the deposit is expressed as multiple discordant patterns, separated by unconformities that likely were influenced by fluctuating lake levels on the lake margin. Although the study site is only ~8,000 square meters in area, the detailed stratigraphic relationships can be scaled up to inform the characterization of larger sedimentary deposits with economic reservoir potential. The sands, gravels, and marls composing the stratigraphy were deposited during the transgressive phase of the pluvial lake, which preserved shoreline features such as spits and barrier bars. We interpret our site as a spit that extended out into the Pleistocene lake, at times connecting to a nearby persistently subaerially exposed island to form a tombolo. The deposited strata are well-exposed in a fortuitously located gravel quarry. The site provides an excellent natural laboratory for detailed 3D imaging due to the mostly flat ground surface (the quarry floor), low-clay, low-salinity, and low-moisture content of the site. The GPR data were acquired with a 200-MHz antenna (for 2D profiles) and a 400-MHz antenna (for 3D volumes). For the latter, the line spacing was about 0.3 meters with a trace spacing of 2.5 cm. The GPR dataset offers high-resolution images of clinoform sequence stratigraphy down to about 3 meters below the surface of the quarry. The vertical resolution (Rayleigh criterion) of the data is about 6 cm (for 3D volumes) and 13 cm (for 2D profiles). Migration collapsed diffractions and re-positioned dipping reflectors correctly. Deconvolution suppressed multiple reflections and tightened the waveforms. Using petroleum industry mapping software, amplitudes were binned into voxels to create precise 3D volumes, which facilitated more accurate geometrical interpretation (e.g., true dip direction of reflectors). Facies associations from stratigraphic sections measured just above the GPR acquisition level (quarry floor) help to describe and reconstruct the depositional history of the spit. The lithologic interpretation of the GPR reflectors is constrained by the correlation (or extrapolation) of the measured sections to the subsurface data volumes. Reflectivity is controlled by variations in porosity and matrix content (e.g., quartz vs. clays vs. calcite). Our study furnishes a model of transgressive deposits in a lacustrine environment and an analog for clastic sediments deposited on a larger scale in such environments.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Geological Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





Lake Bonneville, Grouse Creek, Ground Penetrating Radar, measured section, spit, tombolo, lacustrine sediments, reservoir characterization