The Cenozoic fill of the Gulf of Mexico basin contains a continuous record of sediment supply from the North American continental interior for the past 65 million years. Regional mapping of unit thickness and paleogeography for 18 depositional episodes defines patterns of shifting entry points of continental fluvial systems and quantifies the total volume of sediment supplied during each episode. Eight fluvio-deltaic axes are present: the Rio Bravo, Rio Grande, Guadalupe, Colorado, Houston-Brazos, Red, Mississippi, and Tennessee axes. Sediment volume was calculated from digitized hand-contoured unit thickness maps using a geographic information system (GIS) algorithm to sum volumes within polygons bounding interpreted North American river contribution. General age-dependent compaction factors were used to convert calculated volume to total grain volume. Values for rate of supply range from >150 km to <10 km³/Ma.
Paleogeographic maps for eleven Cenozoic time intervals display the evolving matrix of elevated source areas, intracontinental sediment repositories, known and inferred drainage elements, and depositional fluvial/deltaic depocenters along the northern Gulf of Mexico basin margin. Patterns of sediment supply in time and space record the complex interplay of intracontinental tectonism, climate change, and drainage basin evolution. Five tectonoclimatic eras are differentiated: Paleocene late Laramide era; early to middle Eocene terminal Laramide era; middle Cenozoic (Late Eocene–Early Miocene) dry, volcanogenic era; middle Neogene (Middle–Late Miocene) arid, extensional era; and late Neogene (Plio–Pleistocene) monsoonal, epeirogenic uplift era. Through most of the Cenozoic, three to four independent continental-scale drainage basins have supplied sediment to the Gulf of Mexico.
- Received 4 October 2010.
- Revision received 7 April 2011.
- Accepted 10 April 2011.
- © Geological Society of America