The classical turbidite outcrop at San Clemente, California revisited: An example of sandy submarine channels with asymmetric facies architecture

Pan Li*, Benjamin C. Kneller, Larissa Hansen, Ian A. Kane

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


A 1.1–1.2 km long, 3–15 m thick exposure of the late Miocene to Pliocene Capistrano Formation crops out at San Clemente, California, providing a superb example of submarine channel elements with an asymmetric cross-sectional facies distribution. Coarser-grained, thicker bedded and more amalgamated channel axial deposits are partitioned towards one side of channel elements (200–400 m wide), whilst finer-grained and thinner bedded channel margin deposits are partitioned towards the other side. Two end-member types of silty channel-base and intra-channel drapes are recognized, namely, bypass drapes and deposition drapes. There are both draping silty turbidites that show either strong (bypass drapes) or insignificant (deposition drapes) evidence of erosion and/or sediment bypass during deposition. Bypass drapes and deposition drapes are interpreted to result from flow bypass and flow stratification, respectively, and have significantly different implications for reservoir connectivity and down-dip sediment transport. Channel elements are nested to form two channel complexes. Channel complex 1 comprises four channel elements and shows a vertical aggradation dominated stacking pattern, whilst channel complex 2 comprises five channel elements and shows a mixed lateral migration/vertical aggradation stacking pattern. This study also suggests that these exposures represent only a fragment of a larger channel complex set that might bear varying degrees of resemblance to its formative geomorphic channel(s) on the paleo-seafloor. The reinterpretation of this classic outcrop provides valuable insight into other turbidite channel systems at outcrop and in the subsurface, both in a sedimentological and applied context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalSedimentary Geology
Early online date13 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016



  • Architectural asymmetry
  • Drapes
  • San Clemente
  • Slope channels
  • Terrace
  • Turbidite

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy

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