Tectonic Structures of the Palo Duro Basin, Texas Panhandle

The Palo Duro Basin is a broad structural low in the southern Texas Panhandle that formed as a result of nearly continuous Pennsylvanian and Permian subsidence. True complexity of this basin is unknown because of the sparsity of structural information. However, surface and subsurface studies, including examinations of outcrop, well log, and seismic reflection data, indicate that structures within and adjoining the basin consist primarily of small, fault-bounded, isolated, positive basement areas and poorly defined subbasins. To the north, the Amarillo Uplift and subparallel Oldham-Harmon structural trend, together with the intervening Whittenburg Trough and Hollis Basin, form a complex zone of horsts and grabens that separates the Palo Duro and Anadarko Basins. The Matador Arch, an east-west-trending series of en echelon fault blocks, defines the southern edge of the Palo Duro Basin, and broad structural divides form the east and west margins of the basin. Overall structural configuration of basins and uplifts of the southern Texas Panhandle and adjoining areas was produced during the Pennsylvanian Ancestral Rocky Mountain orogeny and modified by subsidence during the Permian and Triassic Periods. Some of the structures originated before the late Paleozoic and were later reactivated. Maximum topographic and bathymetric relief was attained in the Middle Pennsylvanian (Desmoinesian), when as much as 75 mi (120 km) of left-lateral movement took place along the Amarillo Uplift. Continuing deformation maintained a subtle differentiation between basins and uplifts through the end of the Permian and again in the Triassic. Tectonic activity during deposition of the Neogene Ogallala Formation occurred mainly along the Amarillo Uplift, but it subtly affected the entire Palo Duro Basin. Dissolution of Permian evaporites in the Palo Duro Basin and adjoining areas has deformed overlying strata and complicated the documentation of tectonic activity. Structures formed by dissolution processes are confined to Upper Permian and younger strata in areas of thinned halite beds. In addition, surface structures produced by dissolution are chaotic in contrast with the more systematic character of those tectonically generated. This study was undertaken to characterize the structural geology of the Palo Duro Basin. It was one facet of a larger project at the Bureau that was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to assess the suitability of the basin as a location for a high-level nuclear waste repository. Although our understanding of the structural geology of the basin has been advanced by this study, additional data are needed before the nature of faults and folds in a given area of the basin can be predicted with precision.
Roy T. Budnik

Budnik, R. T., 1989, Tectonic Structures of the Palo Duro Basin, Texas Panhandle: The University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology, Report of Investigations No. 187, 43 p.

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The University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology
Report of Investigation