2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 14
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


CARPENTER, Scott J., Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, Univ of Iowa, 121 Trowbridge Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242, ERICKSON, J. Mark, Geology Department, St. Lawrence Univ, Canton, NY 13617 and HOGANSON, John W., North Dakota Geol Survey, 600 East Boulevard Ave, Bismarck, ND 58505, scott-j-carpenter@uiowa.edu

Well-preserved biogenic carbonates (predominantly mollusks) from the Fox Hills-Hell Creek estuary (Late Maastrichtian riverine, estuarine, and marine sediments) have been analyzed for d18O, d13C values and 87Sr/86Sr ratios to constrain the composition of the distal portions of the Hell Creek distributary system where it emptied into the Fox Hills Sea.  d18O and d13C values of biogenic carbonates define a linear mixing trend for these systems (from (0, 1.5 ‰) to (–21, -4 ‰, PDB)) that blended river water whose source was high-altitude precipitation/snow pack (d18O = -20 ‰ SMOW) with seawater (d18O = -1 ‰ SMOW). Mixing is further constrained by 87Sr/86Sr ratios of marine, estuarine, and freshwater, biogenic carbonates.

Exceptionally low d18O values of Hell Creek river water were maintained over the entire length of this river system (~750 km) and appear to have been relatively undiluted by local precipitation, suggesting that the amount of local precipitation and/or runoff was low in eastern Montana and the Dakotas.  In contrast, abiotic carbonates from this region suggest that regional groundwater had a d18O value of approx. –8 ‰ (SMOW).  Freshwater mollusks from the Paleocene Sentinel Butte Fm. of North Dakota also have very low d18O values (–24 ‰, PDB) and indicate that these isotopically distinct river systems continued to flow without significant modification after the K-T boundary. We conclude that the hydrodynamic regimes of the Laramide headwaters were somewhat cooler and/or higher during the early Paleocene.

Freshwater 87Sr/86Sr ratios increase dramatically up-section from the upper Fox Hills Fm. (0.70771) through the Hell Creek Fm. (0.70798) and into the Paleocene Slope, Bullion Creek, and Sentinel Butte Fms. (0.70960), suggesting that the 87Sr/86Sr ratio of rock material weathering in the Hell Creek-Sentinel Butte drainage systems was increasing as the drainage system evolved.  This evolution may be explained by initial weathering of volcanic fields (low 87Sr/86Sr ratios) in western Montana and later exposure and weathering of rocks of Paleozoic and older ages.  The distinctive isotopic composition of Hell Creek river waters provides an excellent means of differentiating the paleo-environments of fossil materials and a possible chemostratigraphic tool.