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Structure and Evolution of Upheaval Dome


Structure and Evolution of Upheaval Dome: Pinched-Off Salt Diapir or Meteoritic Impact Structure?, by M. P.A. Jackson, D. D. Schultz-Ela, M. R. Hudec, I. A. Watson, and M. L. Porter. 93 p., 42 figs., 1 table, 1 appendix, 2001. Print Version.

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RI0262. Structure and Evolution of Upheaval Dome: Pinched-Off Salt Diapir or Meteoritic Impact Structure?, by M.P.A. Jackson, D. D. Schultz-Ela, M. R. Hudec, I. A. Watson, and M. L. Porter. 93 p., 42 figs., 1 table, 1 appendix, 2001. Print.

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Upheaval Dome remains one of the most enigmatic structures in North America. Ongoing debate continues about whether the structure is a deeply eroded meteor-impact structure or a pinched-off salt dome. This report presents the case for the salt-dome hypothesis and critically evaluates the arguments on both sides of the debate.


Upheaval Dome (Canyonlands National Park, Utah, is an enigmatic structure previously attributed to underlying salt doming, cryptovolcanic explosion, fluid escape, or meteoritic  impact. We instead propose that an overhanging diapir of partly extrusive salt was pinched off from its stem and subsequently eroded. Many features support this inference, especially synsedimentary structures that indicate Jurassic growth of the dome over at least 20 m.y. Conversely, evidence favoring other hypotheses is sparse and equivocal.

In the rim syncline, strata were thinned by circumferentially striking, low-angle extensional faults verging both inward (toward the center of the dome) and outward. Near the dome's core, radial shortening produced constrictional bulk strain, forming an inward-verging thrust duplex and tight to isoclinal, circumferentially trending folds. Farther inward, circumferential shortening predominated: radially trending growth folds and imbricate thrusts pass inward into steep clastic dikes in the dome's core.

We infer that abortive salt glaciers spread from a passive salt stock during the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic. Later, during the Middle Jurassic, the allochthonous salt spread into a pancake-shaped glacier inferred to be 3 km in diameter. Diapiric pinch-off may have involved inward gravitational collapse of the country rocks, which intensely constricted the center of the dome. Sediments in the axial shear zone beneath the glacier steepened to near vertical. The central uplift is inferred to be the toe of the convergent gravity-spreading system.


Keywords: extrusive salt, meteoritic impact, necked diapir, salt diapir, syndepositional deformation, Upheaval Dome, Utah, Paradox Basin





            Hypotheses for Origin of Upheaval Dome


            Tectonic Setting


            Stratigraphic Setting


            Field Mapping and Methodology






            Syn-Chinle Deformation


            Syn-Wingate Deformation


                        Wingate Internal Diastems


                        Wingate Growth Folds


            Syn-Kayenta Deformation


                        Basal Kayenta Channels


                        Kayenta Internal Diastems and Inferred Shifting Rim Synclines


                        Kayenta Growth Faults






            Kayenta Fold and Thrust Belt


            Wingate Structures


            Chinle Deformation in Central Depression


            Central Moenkopi Constriction


            Dome Center and Clastic Dikes




            Positive Evidence Compatible with Both Pinch-Off and Impact




                        Central Uplift


                        Clastic Dikes


                        Crushed Quartz Grains


                        Inner Constrictional Zone


                        Outer Extensional Zone


                        Radial Lobes (Dog Tongues)


                        Underlying Salt


                        Gravity and Magnetic Anomalies


                        Contiguous Anticline


                        Nearby Salt Structures


                        Presence of Rim Syncline


            Positive Evidence Compatible with Pinch-Off but not with Impact


                        Synsedimentary Structures


                        Volume Imbalance. Indicating Salt Loss and Primary Thickness Changes


                        Multiple Episodes of Fracturing and Cementation


                        Presence of Steep Zones in Inner Limb of Rim Syncline


                        Presence of Outward-Verging Extension


                        Presence of Rim Monocline


                        Positive Evidence Compatible with Impact but not with Pinch-Off


                        Shatter Cones


                        Salt below Rim Syncline


            Negative Evidence Compatible with Impact and Pinch-Off


                        Absence of Rock Salt at the Surface


                        Paucity of Nearby Piercement Diapirs


                        Negative Evidence Compatible with Pinch-Off but not with Impact


                        Absence of Meteoritic Material


                        Absence of Melt


                        Paucity of Planar-Deformation Structures in Quartz


                        Absence of Ejecta Breccia


                        Absence of Shock-Metamorphic Minerals
                        Absence of In Situ Breccia


                        Absence of Outer Fault Terracing


                        Absence of Overturned Peripheral Flap






            Initiation of Diapirism


            Stage 1: End Pennsylvanian


            Stage 2: End Chinle


            Stages 3and 4: End Wingate to End Kayenta


            Stage 5: End Navajo


                        Salt Extrusion


                        Diapir Pinch-off


            Stage 6: Present Day








APPENDIX 1. Volumetric Calculations




1. Location map of the northern Paradox Basin, showing Upheaval Dome, known salt structures, and Tertiary intrusions

2. Oblique air photograph, looking east up Upheaval Canyon

3. Panorama, looking generally southeast across the inner depression of Upheaval Dome


4. Oblique air photograph, looking approximately west across alcove D in Trail Canyon


5. Structure-contour map of Upheaval Dome and surroundings, showing the base of the Wingate Formation


6. Schematic illustrations of hypotheses supporting meteoritic impact and salt-dome pinch-off as explanations for the evolution of Upheaval Dome


7. Stratigraphic section near Upheaval Dome


8. Stratigraphy viewed from the rim monocline in an undeformed area immediately south of Upheaval Dome


9. Photograph illustrating our descent route down the Wingate Formation escarpment toward the inner depression


10. Geologic map of Upheaval Dome


11. Geologic maps of the central depression, showing stratigraphic units and faults and stratigraphic contacts, bedding attitudes, faults, fold axes, drainage network, and linear line of section B-B' shown in figure 13 and circular line of section C-C' shown in figure 14


12. Summary map of Upheaval Dome outer structures


13. Linear cross section of B-B' of Upheaval Dome and surroundings as inferred from surface exposures and projection from Buck Mesa well


14. Approximately circular cross section C-C' of the inner depression


15. Photograph illustrating view east from the valley that approximately follows the rim syncline on the southwest part of Upheaval Dome


16. Northwest-southeast cross section D-D' of Whale Rock, in the southeast part of dome, showing abrupt, anomalous steepening of Navajo dips on the inner limb of the withdrawal syncline


17. West-northeast cross section of panorama 9 traced from photographs of Holeman Spring alcove and adjoining exposures farther west on the south side of Upheaval Dome, photograph of similar view, and schematic reconstruction of synsedimentary deformation of Wingate Formation


18. Photograph illustrating northward view of radial growth folds in Lower Wingate sandstone in the northeast cliffs of the inner depression


19. Photograph illustrating southwestward view of a growth fault in cliff-forming Wingate Formation on the south wall of alcove A


20. Panoramas traced from photographs of outward-verging extensional-fault systems encircling Upheaval Dome


21. Photograph illustrating southwestward view across Upheaval Canyon, showing truncation surfaces of variable dip within the Kayenta Formation

22. East-west schematic restoration of intra-Kayenta geometries exposed in spurs south of Upheaval Canyon

23. Panoramas traced from photographs of inward-verging extensional-fault systems encircling Upheaval Dome

24. Oblique air photograph illustrating southwestward view of alcoves B and A


25. Panorama comprising three photographs along the east wall of the major valley adjacent to the syncline on the west to southwest side of Upheaval Dome


26. Closer view of left part of figure 25, interpreted as panorama 11 of figure 23


27. Photograph of outward-verging normal faults diagrammed in panorama 2 of figure 20


28. Photograph and west-east, wider, interpreted panorama 15 of a Kayenta thrust duplex and abrupt transition into the adjoining extensional system farther west


29. Geometry and inferred evolution of dog tongues


30. Views of dog tongues and intervening radial anticlines in southwest and west walls of inner depression


31. Photograph showing northward view of several circumferential. upright. tight to isoclinal folds in upper Wingate and lower Kayenta strata


32. Minor structures exposed in a folded thrust sheet in the southwest part of the inner depression


33. Photograph illustrating eastward view of radial thrusts stacking Moenkopi Formation in the western inner depression


34. Annotated photograph. looking north-northeast from the dome center at folds, imbricated thrust faults, and clastic dikes


35. Photograph, looking south at the center of Upheaval Dome


36. Branching of a clastic dike at its termination


37. Clastic dikes in the center of Upheaval Dome. showing both concordant and discordant relations with enclosing sedimentary layers


38. Clastic dike spires in the center of Upheaval Dome, looking northeast


39. Pinched-off diapir imaged by reflection seismic in the Gulf of Mexico


40. Microfractured quartz in White Rim clastic dikes from the core of Upheaval Dome


41. Air photograph of Dome 16 in the Great Kavir salt desert of Central Iran


42. Schematic reconstruction of the salt-tectonic evolution of Upheaval Dome

1. Evidence supporting pinch-off and impact hypotheses

Jackson, M. P. A., Schultz-Ela, D. D., Hudec, M. R., Watson, I. A., and Porter, M. L., 2001, Structure and Evolution of Upheaval Dome: Pinched-Off Salt Diapir or Meteoritic Impact Structure?: The University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology, Report of Investigations No. 262, 93 p.

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