N163 Salt Evolution and Coeval Sedimentation in the Paradox Basin (Utah, USA)

Course Facts

Course Code:
5 days
Physical Demand:
4.0 Continuing Education Units
40 Professional Development Hours
Certificate Issued Upon Completion


This field course analyses diapiric salt structures and their associated stratigraphic sequences. Course participants will examine the superbly exposed diapiric salt structures of the northern Paradox Basin. Comparisons with subsurface analogues will be made throughout the course, and field days are interspaced with appropriate classroom lectures and seismic interpretation exercises. 

Duration and Training Method

A five-day field course based in Moab, Utah with field observations and exercises, some classroom lectures and seismic interpretation exercises. The proportion of field and classroom time is approximately 80/20.

Participants will learn to:

        1. Evaluate the evolutionary models for basin subsidence and evaporite deposition in the northern Paradox Basin.
        2. Compare different styles of salt geometry and contrast the activation mechanisms for salt evacuation, inflation and extrusion.
        3. Formulate the depositional geometry, thickness and facies architecture of Carboniferous to Jurassic age stratigraphic sequences and propose how they have been controlled by salt wall growth.
        4. Evaluate the influence of along-strike variability in salt wall geometry and how growth history influenced stratigraphic architecture.
        5. Interpret evidence for surface exposure of evaporites within rim-syncline stratigraphic sequences.
        6. Assess the effects of "Paradox-style" salt tectonics on the migration and trapping of hydrocarbons in regions where similar styles of salt tectonics operate (e.g., the Southern North Sea).

              The course will visit salt structures in the Paradox Basin to examine associated deformation and sedimentary features including the evolution of continental minibasins. The features shown in the Paradox Basin will be compared and contrasted with salt-related structures in producing hydrocarbon provinces and basins. Salt structure development occurred in a continental depositional environment and thus may be thought of as analogous to southern North Sea. There will also be several classroom sessions during the course which will discuss current ideas about salt tectonics and include some seismic interpretation exercises.

              The focus of the course will be on the structural development of salt diapirs and salt walls within the Paradox Basin, and controls on stratigraphic sequences that develop in adjacent minibasins.
              The likely itinerary is below:

              Day 0: Participants arrive in Grand Junction.

              Day 1: Travel to Moab, Utah with an overview stop at Dead Horse Point en route: Paradox Basin evolution and seismic scale of the salt structures.

              Day 2: (Morning) Intro to the salt geometry of the Moab-Spanish Valley salt wall structure: (Afternoon) Salt tectonics theory and diapirism along with seismic exercises.

              Day 3: Field excursion along the northern Moab Valley salt wall looking at complex along strike facies variations and faulting associated with a plunging salt wall structure.

              Day 4: Upheaval Dome: examination of the evidence for salt diapirism and welding, comparison with sub-surface pinched off salt diapirs.
              Afternoon: Exercise.

              Day 5: Castle Valley and the Onion Creek Salt diapir: examination of complex minibasin fill in the Triassic, salt-sediment interface geometry, minibasin development associated with the Onion Creek salt diapir, internal diapir deformation.
              Return to Grand Junction.

              Day 6: Participants Fly Home.

              Who should attend

              The course is aimed at geologists and geophysicists who are actively engaged in exploration and development in salt provinces and those moving into salt basins. The class may be of particular value to those working in salt basins associated with continental deposition such as the southern North Sea.

              Prerequisites and linking courses

              There are no formal prerequisites for the course but participants should be conversant with the basic principles of structural and sedimentary geology. A grounding in these principles is provided by courses including:

              • N090 (Seismic Structural Styles Workshop)
              • N160 (Seismic Interpretation of Structural Styles: A Workshop for Petroleum Geoscientists)
              • N138 (Structural Interpretation in Petroleum Exploration and Development)
              • N016/N116 (Structural Geology for Petroleum Exploration, Nevada or SW England)

              Other classes relating directly to salt tectonics in the Nautilus Training Alliance portfolio are:

              • N023 (Salt Tectonics and Seismic Workshop, Nova Scotia)
              • N071 (Workshop in Geological Seismic Interpretation: Salt Tectonics)
              • N149 (Practical Salt Tectonics)
              • N232 (Salt Tectonics:Global Styles,  Spanish Outcrops, Northern Spain)

              The physical demands of this course are MODERATE according to the Nautilus Training Alliance field grading system. This is primarily due to the altitude (4,000-4,500ft/1000-1200m) and prevailing hot and dry conditions in the field area. There are 2 moderately strenuous hikes on this class of around 3 miles/4.8km length (one is up a 15° slope with about 700 feet/240m of elevation gain). The remainder of the field stops involve walking a few hundred yards/metres with little significant elevation gain.

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              Bruce Trudgill

              This was an excellent field course. The instructor was very knowledgeable & I learned a lot about salt tectonics.