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Braided River Facies

Braided River Facies

Braided rivers
General Characteristics
1) Generally not very sinuous
2) Multiple channels separated by bars
or islands
3) Grain size decreases down stream
from gravelly to sandy

Formation of a Braided river

Usually found in areas of high sediment influx, high
water influx, and high gradient
Examples include glacial discharge plains, distal
portions of alluvial fans, and mountainous regions
During times of flooding the river is choked with a high
amount of sediment and a new channel is formed
Mid channel bars result from sediment too large to be

Structure of a Braided river deposit

Contain gravel in lower portions of bars and
channels and sand throughout the rest of the
deposit; mud is almost nonexistant
Longitudinal bars present with some having
horizons of plant roots
Linguoid and transverse bars also present
Lateral bars possible, also with possible
plants roots
Lateral extent of a braided river deposit can
be extensive because lateral migration of the
system and the high sedimentation rate


Meandering River Facies

Meandering River Facies

General Characteristics
1) High sinuosity
2) Composed mostly of sand and mud
3) Confined to a single channel

- The transition between a braided river system and a
meandering river system is a difficult one to draw a line
- Further down stream the river has a much less sediment
influx, and therefore, does not form bars as a result of
sediment choking, but starts to deposit the smaller sediment
in its system and also erodes the surrounding banks
- The cut bank will erode the outside bank and cause the
river to expand laterally while the point bar will deposit
sediment from the system and accrete the river laterally with
sandy silt deposits and sometimes mud
- A meander will sometimes meet another and then form a
faster way down stream so the abandoned channel will
become an ox-bow lake
- During flooding stages the river will spill over its banks and
deposit on the levee and also on the flood plain depositing
silts and muds

Structure of a Meandering river deposit

- The majority of the deposit will consist of the accretion of the point bar
- Some abandoned channels and deep channels will be preserved as dish shaped
structures, up to hundreds of meters wide, in the outcrop
- The point bar will have a fining upward sequence starting from a channel deposit rising
through trough cross bedding and sand stone lenses up to ripples and finally a flood
plain deposit
- The flood plain forms by the deposition of fine material from the river during flood
- Deposits are usually laminated and may be oxidized
- Paleosols may also be present on floodplain, levee, and point bar (though much less
common here)
- A crevasse-splay deposit will consist of a sheet flow with some cross bedding towards
the upper section with rip up clasts present in the bottom of the section

Fluvial environments

Bars are sandy or gravelly macroforms in channels that

are emergent, mostly unvegetated features at low flow
stage, and undergo submergence and rapid modification
during high discharge
Point bars form on inner banks and typically accrete
laterally, commonly resulting in lateral-accretion surfaces;
mid-channel or braid bars accrete both laterally and
Bars are always associated with channels; a genetically
related bar/bar complex and channel/channel complex is
known as a storey

Fluvial environments

Lateral accretion involves higher-order bounding

surfaces dipping perpendicular to paleoflow direction and
associated lower-order bounding surfaces; in the case of
downstream accretion higher-order bounding surfaces
dip parallel to paleoflow direction
Braided rivers are characterized by a dominance of braid
bars exhibiting both lateral and downstream accretion;
meandering rivers primarily contain point bars with lateral
accretion; in straight (and most anastomosing) rivers bars
are commonly almost absent

Fluvial environments

Facies successions in sandy to gravelly channel deposits

typically fine upward, from a coarse channel lag, through
large-scale to small-scale cross stratified sets (commonly
with decreasing set height), and finally overlain by muddy
overbank deposits

The geometry and three-dimensional arrangement of

architectural elements therefore provides a much better
means of inferring fluvial styles from the sedimentary

Fluvial environments

Channel belts consist of channel-bar and channel-fill

deposits; the proportion of the two generally decreases
markedly from braided rivers to anastomosing rivers
The geometry of a channel belt (width/thickness ratio) is a
function of the channel width and the degree of lateral
migration; values are typically much higher for braided
systems (>>100) than for straight or anastomosing
systems (<25)
Sheets have width/thickness ratios of >50
Ribbons have width/thickness ratios of <15

Residual-channel deposits are predominantly muddy

(occasionally organic) deposits that accumulate in an
abandoned channel where flow velocities are extremely

Fluvial environments

Overbank environments are dominated by fine-grained facies

(predominantly muds)
Natural-levee deposits are wedges (wings) of sediment that form
adjacent to the channel, dominated by fine sand and silt exhibiting planar
stratification or (climbing) ripple cross stratification
Crevasse-splay deposits are usually cones of sandy to silty facies with
both coarsening-upward and fining-upward successions, and are formed
by small, secondary channels during peak flow
Flood-basin deposits are the most distal facies, consisting entirely of
muddy sediments deposited from suspension, and are volumetrically very
important (mainly in low-energy fluvial settings)

Fluvial environments

Paleosols (well drained conditions) and occasional peats

(poorly drained conditions) occur frequently in overbank
environments and are important indicators of variations of
clastic aggradation rates and the position relative to active
channels (proximal vs. distal)
The pedofacies concept refers to the maturity of a
paleosol, irrespective of the specific set of pedogenic
processes operating, in the case of floodplains mainly
controlled by distance to the active channel
Lacustrine deposits can be important in overbank
environments characterized by high water tables, and are
also found in distal settings; they are more likely to contain
primary sedimentary structures (horizontal lamination)
than their frequently bioturbated subaerial counterparts

Fluvial environments

Facies models highlight conspicuous differences between

different fluvial styles:
Channel-belt width/thickness ratio (braided: high; meandering:
intermediate; straight/anastomosing: low)
Channel-deposit proportion (braided: high; meandering:
intermediate; straight/anastomosing: low)
Overbank-deposit proportion (braided: low; meandering:
intermediate; straight/anastomosing: high)
Overbank-deposit geometry (meandering: wedge-shaped;
straight/anastomosing: highly irregular due to numerous crevasse
Overbank facies (meandering: well-drained paleosols common;
straight/anastomosing: peats and lacustrine deposits common)

Fluvial environments

Avulsion is the sudden diversion of a channel to a new

location on the floodplain, leading to the abandonment of a
channel belt and the initiation of a new one
Avulsions are the inevitable consequence of the increase of
cross-valley slope (typically through a crevasse channel)
relative to down-valley slope along the channel, associated
with the growth of an alluvial ridge
An avulsion belt constitutes an extensive network of
rapidly aggrading, narrow, crevasse-like channels with
genetically associated overbank deposits, that may
surround the new channel belt

Fluvial environments
Alluvial architecture refers to the three-dimensional arrangement of
channel-belt deposits and overbank deposits in a fluvial succession
The nature of alluvial architecture (e.g., the proportion of channel-belt
to overbank deposits) is dependent on fluvial style, aggradation rate,
and the frequency of avulsion
When alluvial architecture is dominated by channel-belt deposits, the
separation of channel belts from storeys can be extremely difficult