Anastomosing river deposits, sedimentation rates and basin subsidence, Magdalena River, northwestern Colombia, South America
Situated in a tectonically active foreland basin, the Magdalena River consists of vertically accreting, levee-confined channels and adjacent extensive wetlands, which are interpreted as an anastomosing river sedimentary system. Equivalent rates of basin filling and subsidence average 3.8 mm yr -1 based on 18 14C dates from five bore holes drilled to depths of 55 m and sediment transport budgets from 35 years of measurement. Located in a savanna-tropical climate, anastomosing river deposits of the Magdalena are remarkably similar to the anastomosing deposits of the upper Columbia River in a temperate-cold climate in western Canada, suggesting that climate is not a controlling factor of anastomosis. The geometry of anastomosing channel-fills in the Magdalena consists of stratigraphically non-uniform, low sinuous, narrow stringers of sand up to 30 m thick by 600 m wide, a width-depth ratio of 20. Thin (1-2 m) off-channel crevasse-splay sand sheets extend laterally up to 10 km distance. When buried, both sand deposits become encased by lacustrine or marsh mud to form stratigraphic traps. While there are few modern anastomosing river systems as compared to braiding and meandering, there may be a disproportionately large number of ancient anastomosed fluvial rock sequences due to the rapid rate of vertical accretion. Such a different depositional style and geometry of sand bodies have considerable significance in the interpretation of some ancient fluvial rock sequences because it provides an alternative to the meandered and braided-river deposition models.