Carbonates and Evaporites

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 133–147 | Cite as

Depositional environments and stratigraphy of a Cambrian mixed carbonate/terrigenous platform deposit: West-central UTAH, USA

  • David C. Kopaska-Merkel


The Whirlwind Formation (middle Middle Cambrian) is exposed in several block-faulted ranges in west-central Utah. It was studied in the Canyon, Drum, Dugway, Fish Springs, House, and Wah Wah ranges, where 11 sections were measured and 6 others examined. The Whirlwind is composed of intercalated thin-bedded to laminated limestone, siltstone, and shale, and contains distinctive olive-weathering trilobite packstones. The unit averages about 40 meters in thickness and generally forms a prominent slope between more resistant carbonate strata.

Whirlwind sediment infilled a shallow shelf basin, which was protected from the open ocean by carbonate banks. The unit represents a propradational pulse that interrupted a general retrogradation of Cambrian lithosomes in the Great Basin. Maximum water depth in the lower Whirlwind ranged from about eight to a few tens of meters. Rapid shallowing to peritidal depths occurred in most areas. Published paleogeographic reconstructions place western Utah in tropical or subtropical latitudes during Whirlwind time.

In most areas the lower Whirlwind contains laminated mudstone and siltstone representing low-energy conditions and influx of fine terrigenous sediment from the east. Shoreward retrogradation of lithofacies boundaries allowed lime mud banks to develop in the western part of the study area in the middle Whirlwind, followed by westward progradation of fine-grained terrigenous sediments in the upper Whirlwind. Progradation and retrogradation of lithofacies boundaries within the Whirlwind are interpreted to have resulted from small-scale changes in rates of basin subsidence or sea level rise.

Limitation of circulation between the Whirlwind basin and the open ocean did not prevent frequent storms from spreading sheetlike deposits of clastic carbonates across many square kilometers, but it did strictly limit diversity of the Whirlwind fauna. The preserved percent of body fossils are assigned to a single trilobite genus,Ehmaniella Resser. Other taxa include a single genus of inarticulate brachiopod and rare hyolithids. Trace fossils are limited to simple trails (Planolites), vertical “U”-tubes, and silicified burrow-filling fecal pellets resembling those of modern earthworms. Whirlwind waters. were probably of moderately high salinity, hot, and possibly oxygen-poor.


Mudstone Cambrian Siltstone Lithofacies Oolite 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • David C. Kopaska-Merkel
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Northeastern Science FoundationResselaer Center of Applied GeologyTroy
  2. 2.Department of GeologyBrooklyn CollegeBrooklyn

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