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VOL. 52, NO. 2 (JUNE, 2004), P. 139-155

A pop-up structure exposed in the outer foothills,

Crowsnest Pass area, Alberta

Natural Resources Canada
Geological Survey of Canada (Calgary)
3303 - 33rd Street NW, Calgary, AB, T2L 2A7

Recent mapping in the Blairmore East-Half map area indicates a pop-up structure transected by the Crowsnest River,
near the leading edge of Eastern Cordilleran deformation. At scenic Lundbreck Falls, the sub-horizontal attitude of the
Santonian Virgelle Formation (Milk River Group) is anomalous in comparison to fault-bounded slices to both the east and
west, where strata display steep to moderate dips more typical of Foothills structures. The relatively broad (750 m across
strike), flat-lying structure exposed at Lundbreck Falls is bounded downstream to the east by a foreland-directed thrust
placing Virgelle Formation on Campanian Lundbreck Formation (Belly River Group). To the west, this sub-horizontal
structure is overridden by a steeply west-dipping, foreland-directed thrust carrying Milk River and Belly River strata in its
hanging wall. Stratigraphic offset across this thrust fault is apparently small to negligible at the Crowsnest River, but
increases at higher elevations to the north and south. On either side of this thrust fault, north of the Crowsnest River, two
anticlines involving the Virgelle Formation face each other. These atypical relationships suggest that, at the river and
adjacent low elevations, the sub-horizontal structure may be bounded to the west by a cryptic, west-directed backthrust that
is overridden up-slope by the foreland-directed fault just described. These features are inferred to comprise a pop-up
structure, similar to those interpreted elsewhere within the triangle zone in the subsurface, but never before described in
outcrop in the Foothills of Alberta. Although they appear to be very rare in the Foothills, the inferred backthrust is not alone
in this immediate area. Two kilometres downstream, the hinge of an upright anticline, involving a well-exposed section of
Milk River Group strata at the classic Lundbreck transition outcrop, is removed to the north by another west-directed
backthrust. This backthrust could also be associated with a pop-up structure, as suggested by its configuration in restored
cross-sections. An association between the pop-up structures and the triangle zone is implied by their proximity, but
relative timing relationships are unclear. The recognition of these structures, using a refined stratigraphy in an area mapped
previously, suggests that pop-up structures associated with the triangle zone may be more common than published studies
indicate, and therefore may be more important features of the Outer Foothills belt than is widely appreciated.
Une cartographie rcente de la moiti-est de la carte de la rgion de Blairmore indique une structure dun coin extrusif
transect par la rivire Crownest, prs de la limite de la dformation de la cordilire-est . Au niveau des chutes pittoresques
de Lundbreck, lattitude sous-horizontale de la formation Virgelle du Santonien (groupe Milk River) est irrgulire
compare aux tranches limites par des failles situes lest et louest, l o les couches prsentent des pendages prononcs modrs, plus typiques des structures des Foothills. La structure relativement large (750 m dun bout lautre), et plate,
expose sur les chutes de Lundbreck, est limite en aval lest par un chevauchement davant-chane qui superpose
la formation Virgelle sur la formation Lundbreck du Campanien (groupe Belly River). A louest, cette structure soushorizontale est surmonte par un chevauchement davant-chane pendage prononc vers louest, transportant des couches
de Milk River et Belly River dans son compartiment suprieur. La sparation stratigraphique des affleurements travers
cette faille de chevauchement est apparemment de petite ngligeable au niveau de la rivire Crownest, mais elle augmente
au nord et au sud des altitudes plus hautes. Au nord de la rivire Crownest deux anticlinaux contenant la formation
Virgelle se font face. Ces agencements de structures de chaque ct de cette faille de chevauchement suggrent quau
niveau du fleuve et des basses altitudes adjacentes, la structure sous-horizontale puisse tre limite louest par un
rtrochevauchement cryptique orient vers louest, domin en amont de pente par la faille davant-chane tel que dcrit plus




haut. Ces structures sont infres comme faisant partie dune structure de coin extrusif, similaire celles qui sont interprtes
ailleurs lintrieur de la zone triangle sous-terraine, mais qui nont jamais t dcrites auparavant dans laffleurement des
Foothills de lAlberta. Bien quils apparaissent comme tant trs rares dans les Foothills, les rtrochevauchements infrs ne sont
pas uniques dans cette zone immdiate. A deux kilomtres en aval, la charnire dun anticlinal vertical, comprenant une section
bien expose de couches du groupe Milk River, laffleurement classique de la transition de Lundbreck, est supprime au nord
par un autre rtrochevauchement orient vers louest. Ce rtrochevauchement peut galement tre associ une structure dun coin
extrusif, comme le suggre sa configuration dans des coupes restaures. Une association entre les structures de coins extrusifs et
la zone triangle est sous-entendue du fait de leur proximit, mais les liens relatifs de leur rpartition dans le temps demeurent
incertains. La reconnaissance de ces structures, par lutilisation dune stratigraphie affine dans une rgion cartographie
prcdemment, suggre que les structures de coins extrusifs associes avec la zone triangle puissent tre plus courantes que
ne le rapportent les tudes publies ce sujet, et par consquent elles peuvent se rvler comme tant des caractristiques plus
importantes de la ceinture externe des Foothills quen gnral on lui attribue.
Traduit par Gabrielle Drivet



Recent mapping in the southern Alberta Foothills, associated

A pop-up structure is defined as a structurally uplifted block
with the Geological Survey of Canadas Southeastern Cordillera bounded by reverse or thrust faults with opposing senses of
NATMAP project (Lebel et al., 1997), has revealed a variety of
structures not recognized by earlier workers. Previous mapping
in the project area, which encompasses much of the Foothills
from Turner Valley to the international border (Fig. 1), was
undertaken in the 1940s and 1950s. Many of the resulting GSC
maps are now out of print, and all are out of date in terms of
modern structural and stratigraphic understanding. In the east
half of the Blairmore map area (NTS 82G/9E), new mapping
(Stockmal and Lebel, 2003) has revealed an anomalous feature
interpreted here as a pop-up structure, similar to those developed in the subsurface that are often in close proximity to the
triangle zone. Although the subsurface expressions of pop-up
structures have been noted at various latitudes along the edge of
the eastern Canadian Cordillera, no such feature has been
described in outcrop within the Foothills.
A key element of the recognition and delineation of the
inferred pop-up is a refined, mappable, Upper Cretaceous
stratigraphy that substantially improves the structural resolution in comparison with most previous work in the area. The
dominantly non-marine interval mapped previously as the
Belly River Formation (e.g., Douglas, 1950), bounded by the
marine shales of the Wapiabi and Bearpaw formations, has
been recently subdivided into the Milk River and Belly River
groups, each containing three formations, and separated by
the Pakowki Formation marine shales (Jerzykiewicz and
Norris, 1994; Stockmal, 1995). This mappable stratigraphy is
described below.
The Crowsnest River, where scenic Lundbreck Falls tumbles over thick shoreface sandstones of the Milk River Group
(Fig. 2), transects the interpreted pop-up structure. The bedrock
expression of the pop-up is approximately 750 m wide across
structural strike, and approximately 7 km along strike.
Fig. 1. Map showing locations of the Geological Survey of Canadas
Unfortunately, no subsurface information exists at this locality Southeastern Cordillera NATMAP project area, names and NTS
to either support or refute the pop-up interpretation, but sub- (National Topographic System) designations for each 1:50,000 scale
map area, the Blairmore East-Half map area (Stockmal and Lebel,
surface pop-ups have been interpreted along strike to the north 2003), and Figure 9. Long dashed lines mark boundaries between the
Plains, Foothills, and Front Ranges. The dotted line marks the axis of
(e.g., Lawton et al., 1996).
the Alberta Syncline.


motion (e.g., McClay, 1992). Often implicit in the usage of this

term is the assumption that the pop-up structure forms at an
early stage of deformation, when maximum compressive stress
is oriented sub-parallel to bedding. In practice, this temporal
relationship may be difficult or impossible to document, underscoring the value of using descriptive terminology in favour of
terminology dependent upon genesis. A generic pop-up structure accommodating modest shortening is shown schematically
in Figure 3a. The pop-up may be localized just above the tip
line of a layer-parallel detachment (Fig. 3a), but this is not an
essential element of the structure.
Figure 3b illustrates three basic modes by which this structure could evolve, each involving the propagation and growth
of either the underlying detachment or one of the bounding
faults. In Option 1, the basal detachment propagates toward the
foreland, carrying the pop-up structure as a relatively passive
feature in the hanging wall of a thrust sheet. This style is similar to that interpreted in seismic data by Lawton et al. (1996) in
the triangle zone of the Alberta Foothills in the Sundre area,
albeit at a very early stage. In Option 2, the hinterland-directed
thrust, or backthrust, propagates and develops resulting in a
type of tectonic wedging. Sanderson and Spratt (1992) implied
this structural style for a backthrust lying in a displacement
transfer zone between the Misty and Coleman thrusts in the
Front Ranges of the southern Canadian Rockies. In Option 3,
the foreland-directed thrust propagates and develops, perhaps
forming an upper footwall flat, as illustrated in Figures 3b and
3c. In this case, with sufficient motion on the fault, the pop-up
structure will be carried up the ramp and onto the flat, causing
the structure to rotate toward the foreland (Fig. 3c).
The overall cross-sectional configuration of the fault-bend
fold produced in Figure 3c is similar to structures that have
been termed snakehead folds (e.g., Davis and Reynolds,
1996, p. 323, p. 415), where transport on the fault has been just
sufficient to displace the hanging wall ramp onto the footwall
flat. In Figure 3c, the snakehead structure has been modified by

Fig. 2. View of scenic Lundbreck Falls, facing west (701875E,

5495770N, UTM Zone 11, NAD27). Two fishermen are circled for
scale. The falls are formed where the Crowsnest River plunges over
the Santonian Virgelle Formation, which is anomalously flat lying in
comparison with typical Foothills structural attitudes to both the east
and west.


displacement on the backthrust to the pop-up structure. Any

folds associated with motion on the backthrust should show an
asymmetry consistent with hinterland vergence, as shown
schematically in the hanging wall (Fig. 3c).

Fig. 3. Definition and possible deformation paths of a pop-up structure. (a) Schematic of a pop-up structure. (b) Three possible options for
deformation and evolution of a pop-up structure. (c) Possible configuration resulting from Option 3, shown in (b). Circle and arrow indicate
sense of rotation of the structure as it moves up the ramp and onto the
flat. Dashed-double dotted line indicates possible out-of-sequence fault
branching off the top of the thrust ramp. (d) Possible configuration following offset on the out-of-sequence thrust imbricate. (e) Possible final
configuration of the pop-up structure in (d) following subsequent backrotation as indicated by large circle and arrow, due to general insequence footwall imbrication. Position of oppositely facing anticlines,
juxtaposed across the out-of-sequence imbricate, is indicated. See text
for discussion.



One possible kinematic option for subsequent shortening

across this structure involves the development of an out-ofsequence thrust imbrication branching off the top of the ramp
and overriding the hinterland end of the pop-up structure
(Fig. 3c, dashed-double dotted line, Fig. 3d). Any folds associated with motion on this imbricated thrust should show an
asymmetry consistent with foreland vergence, as shown
schematically in the hanging wall (Fig. 3d). With later footwall
imbrication and shortening in a general in-sequence fashion,
the entire structure shown in Figure 3d could be back-rotated
toward the hinterland, resulting in the pop-up structure once
again having a sub-horizontal attitude (Fig. 3e). Note the juxtaposition in Figure 3e, across the out-of-sequence imbricate, of
oppositely facing anticlines. As discussed below, the kinematic
evolution shown in Figure 3 is motivated by structures mapped
along and adjacent to the Crowsnest River.

Southeastern Cordillera NATMAP Project, and these appear on

GSC Open File maps from that time (Lebel and Williams,
1994; Lebel et al., 1994). However, it was subsequently realized (Stockmal, 1995) that all three members of the Milk River
Formation known from the Plains (e.g., Meijer Drees and
Mhyr, 1981), and recognized by Rosenthal and Walker (1987)
as units within the Chungo Member (Fig. 5), could be mapped
at 1:50,000 scale in the NATMAP area. On the basis of being
mappable, these units were adopted as formations (according to
convention; NACSN, 1983) using the names assigned to Plains
members (Telegraph Creek, Virgelle, and Deadhorse Coulee
formations) and the Milk River Formation was elevated to
group status for GSC mapping purposes (e.g., Stockmal, 1996).

A generalized stratigraphic column for the southern Alberta
Foothills is shown in Figure 4. The Foothills structural belt
(Bally et al., 1966) is informally divided into the Outer
Foothills and the Inner Foothills based on stratigraphic level of
exposure (Fig. 4) (Dahlstrom, 1970). The Inner Foothills belt
includes a number of structural culminations exposing units as
old as the Mississippian Banff Formation (e.g., Moose
Mountain, Plateau Mountain, Livingstone Range). Units older
than Mississippian age do not crop out at the surface within the
Foothills, but are known to be involved in subsurface structures
(e.g., Bally et al., 1966; Fermor, 1999).
In general, the level of structural detail mappable in any
given area is strongly dependent upon the attainable degree of
stratigraphic subdivision. In the Foothills, for example, the previous generation of bedrock maps utilized a relatively coarse
stratigraphy where the dominantly non-marine section between
the Wapiabi Formation and Bearpaw Formation marine shales
was assigned to a single mappable unit: the Belly River
Formation (e.g., Douglas, 1950; Wall and Rosene, 1977)
(Fig. 5). At the base of the Belly River Formation, in the
Foothills south of the Bow River, Stott (1963) recognized the
Chungo and Nomad members, which he interpreted as equivalent respectively to the Milk River and Pakowki formations in
the Plains to the east. Working along and south of the Bow
River, Rosenthal and Walker (1987) recognized the same members as far south as the Maycroft map area (Fig. 1), but placed
them at the top of the Wapiabi Formation, consistent with
Stotts interpretations north of Bow River. Rosenthal and
Walker (1987) also subdivided the Chungo Member into three
units: a lower marine unit transitional with the underlying
Thistle Member of the Wapiabi Formation, a middle marine
shoreface unit, and an upper non-marine unit (Fig. 5).
Jerzykiewicz and Norris (1994) used a six-fold subdivision
of the former Belly River Formation (Fig. 5) to map structures
near Lundbreck Falls. Their stratigraphic subdivisions and
nomenclature were used in the early stages of the GSCs

Fig. 4. Generalized stratigraphy for the southern Alberta Foothills.

The ranges of deformed strata exposed in the Outer Foothills and Inner
Foothills are indicated, as are those units encountered only in the subsurface. The arrows indicate potential detachment horizons, the dark
large arrows being more important than the smaller grey arrows. The
stratigraphic section detailed in Figure 5 is indicated.


A key element in importing Plains stratigraphy and terminology into the Foothills was the recognition and position of
the Pakowki Formation, considered equivalent to the Nomad
Member (Stott, 1963; Rosenthal and Walker, 1987), which
overlies the Milk River Group. The Pakowki Formation is very
well exposed on the Oldman River in the Maycroft map area
(Stockmal, 1995, 1996), located immediately north of the
Blairmore map area (Fig. 1). Figure 6 illustrates the degree of
exposure and some of the key features of this outcrop, which
was measured by Stott (1963), Rosenthal (1984), and Stockmal
(1995). In particular, note: (1) the leaf and other plant debris
imprints in the non-marine Deadhorse Coulee Formation interval (Fig. 6, lower right); (2) the sharp contact of the Pakowki
Formation marine shales on the uppermost sandstone of the
Deadhorse Coulee (Fig. 6, upper right); (3) the quality of exposure of the marine Pakowki Formation (Fig. 6, lower left),
which includes excellent hummocky cross-stratified sandstone
beds; and (4) the sharp base of the basal Belly River sandstone overlying the Pakowki Formation (Fig. 6, upper left). A
critical aid to recognition of the Pakowki Formation in isolated
or poor exposures is a basal, matrix-supported, chert-pebble
conglomerate. At the Oldman River locality, the pebbles range
in size from 1 to 6 cm (Fig. 6, small photos at top, middle) and
are concentrated in the lower 20 cm of the Pakowki interval,
though they occur up to 3 m from the contact. Similar chert
pebbles are known from the Plains at the base of the Pakowki
Formation (Meijer Drees and Mhyr, 1981).
On the Crowsnest River, in the map area discussed here,
Rosenthal and Walker (1987) did not recognize a clear equivalent to the Nomad Member, although the lower two units of the
Chungo Member were delineated. The lower portion of this
particular outcrop was also described in detail by Lerand and
Oliver (1975), and has become well known to local sedimentologists as the Lundbreck transition outcrop (a reference to
the adjacent town of Lundbreck and the facies transition from
the marine Wapiabi Formation to the non-marine Belly River
Formation). In the often-reproduced section of Lerand and
Oliver (1975; their figure 3), the Telegraph Creek Formation
comprises their units 1 through 9, and the Virgelle Formation
comprises their units 10 through 13.
Figure 7 is an overview of the section examined by Lerand
and Oliver (1975; west half of Fig. 7) and Rosenthal and
Walker (1987), viewed looking south, whereas Figure 8 is an
overview of the upper portion of the section measured by
Rosenthal and Walker (1987), viewed looking north. The
prominent, thick sandstones of the Virgelle Formation (~40 m
thick) and the basal Belly River Group (basal Connelly Creek
Formation) sandstone (~15 m thick) are clear, as are thick,
composite sandstone units within the Deadhorse Coulee
Formation (Figs. 6, 7, 8). The Pakowki Formation crops out on
the north side of Crowsnest River, in the poorly exposed and
relatively thin (~8 m) interval indicated in Figure 8. Chert pebbles up to 1.5 cm in diameter were dug out of the outcrop at this
locality, confirming this interpretation. Similar to the situation
on the Oldman River to the north (Fig. 6, upper left), the basal
Belly River sandstone on the Crowsnest River (Figs. 7, 8)


abruptly overlies the Pakowki interval, possibly with an unconformable relationship. An unconformity could account for the
relative thinness of the Pakowki at Crowsnest River, and the
absence of clearly marine sandstones in this interval. For a
detailed perspective of the shoreline-related basal Belly River
sandstones in the Plains, see Hamblin and Abrahamson
The three formations of the Belly River Group, originally
described by Jerzykiewicz and Norris (1994), can generally be
distinguished in river exposures though their identification in
the surrounding countryside can be problematic to impossible
(Stockmal, 1995). The most characteristic difference between
the Connelly Creek and Lundbreck Formations (which make up
the bulk of the total thickness of the group) is the colour of the
recessive shaly beds: the Lundbreck Formation contains bright
greyish-green to yellowish-green mudstones (Jerzykiewicz and
Norris, 1994, p. 384) in contrast to the drab, olive green mudstones more typical of the Connelly Creek Formation.
Jerzykiewicz and Norris (1994) also suggested that the appearance of whitish limestone concretions in the Lundbreck
Formation aids identification, though Stockmal (1995) indicated that these occur throughout most of the Belly River
Group. The thin, uppermost unit of the Belly River Group, the
Drywood Creek Formation, is extremely recessive and is known
only from major river exposures.
Due to problems with identification of formations within
the Belly River Group away from major river exposures
(Stockmal, 1995), the new series of GSC Open File maps
from the Crowsnest River north do not show individual formations except along and immediately adjacent to the rivers

Fig. 5. Stratigraphic nomenclature of Santonian and Campanian

units in southern Alberta based on an unpublished figure by A.R. Sweet
(GSC-Calgary). The stratigraphic units mapped in the area discussed
here are shown in the shaded column. See text for discussion.




(e.g., Stockmal, 1996; Stockmal and Lebel, 2003). This

approach is shown here in Figure 9, which shows a portion of
the Blairmore East-Half map (Stockmal and Lebel, 2003).
Similar difficulties in identification do not exist for the units
of the Milk River Group, although problems do arise. In particular, the Virgelle Formation and the basal Belly River sandstone are very similar in outcrop and, without an appreciation
for this similarity, can be mistaken for each other in isolated


and incomplete exposures away from the well-exposed river

sections. In general, however, these units and the thick sandstones within the Deadhorse Coulee Formation (Figs. 6, 8) can
be traced and distinguished with confidence on aerial photographs (Fig. 10), greatly facilitating map construction (Fig. 9).
In Figure 5, two columns of stratigraphic nomenclature are
shown for the NATMAP project area. The column labelled
North applies to all map areas from Blairmore north, whereas

Fig. 7. Overview, looking south, of Milk River Group and Pakowki Formation exposure on Crowsnest River, at the classic Lundbreck transition outcrop. Viewpoint location: 702925E, 5496780N, UTM Zone 11, NAD 27.

Fig.8. Overview, looking north, of upper Milk River Group, Pakowki Formation, and lower Belly River Group (Connelly Creek Formation)
exposure on Crowsnest River, at the classic Lundbreck transition outcrop (703053E, 5496485N, UTM Zone 11, NAD 27). In the distance to the
northeast are exposures of the Lundbreck Formation farther downstream on Crowsnest River (see Fig. 9). Note the nature of the exposure in
the hills to the north-northwest; these hillside outcrops of Virgelle, Deadhorse Coulee, and basal Connelly Creek formations are those seen in the
aerial photograph in Figure 10, lower left.

Fig. 6. (facing page) Field photographs of Milk River Group, Pakowki Formation, and basal Belly River Group exposure on the Oldman River
(outcrop location: 697650E, 5526100N, UTM Zone 11, NAD27). Centre: Overview of exposure from the upper Virgelle Formation to the basal
Belly River sandstone (base of Connelly Creek Formation see inset stratigraphic column). Lower right: Leaf and plant debris impressions in
the non-marine Deadhorse Coulee Formation. Upper right: Sharp contact of Pakowki Formation on Deadhorse Coulee Formation; distinctive
chert pebbles indicated by white circle, and shown in smaller inset photos. Lower left: Overview of Pakowki Formation interval, looking upsection to basal Belly River sandstone. Upper left: Sharp basal contact of basal Belly River sandstone on top of Pakowki Formation.



Fig. 9. Geological map, after Stockmal and Lebel (2003) (see Fig. 1 for location of figure within the larger map area). The locations of
the Lundbreck transition outcrop (Figs. 7, 8), panoramic viewpoints (Figs. 11, 12), and structural cross-sections (Fig. 13) are indicated, as is the
outline of Figure 10. Foreland-directed thrust faults (TF1, TF2 and TF3) and hinterland-directed backthrusts (BT1 and BT2) discussed in the text
are labelled.



Fig. 11. Panoramic view from station SQB2002-019 (location shown in Fig. 9). DHC: Deadhorse Coulee Formation; TC: Telegraph Creek
Formation. See text for discussion. Viewpoint location: 701451E, 5495506N, UTM Zone 11, NAD 27.



Fig. 12. Panoramic views from stations SQB2002-042 (top) and SQB2002-108 (bottom). DHC: Deadhorse Coulee Formation; Wp:
Wapiabi Formation. See text for discussion. Viewpoint locations: Station 042 703117E, 5493869N; Station 108 700979E, 5497756N; both
UTM Zone 11, NAD 27.



Fig. 10. Examples of aerial photographic expression of stratigraphic units and structures. Top: Area encompassing the inferred pop-up structure, outlined in Figure 9 for a direct comparison with map interpretation. LT o/c and LF indicate locations of the Lundbreck transition outcrop and
Lundbreck Falls, respectively. Note the anomalous, apparent, cross-structural strike orientation of resistant units within the pop-up structure, both
north and south of the Crowsnest River. White-outlined boxes are areas enlarged at bottom of figure. Lower left: Enlargement of aerial photograph at top showing expression of the Virgelle, Deadhorse Coulee, and basal Connelly Creek formations. Compare with view in Figure 8, and
interpretation in Figure 9. In particular, note the position of a backthrust (BT1) cutting out these units progressively to the north. Lower right:
Enlargement of aerial photograph at top showing a second example of the expression of these same units. Note the prominent fold (west-facing
anticline) in the upper right corner (compare with Fig. 9). This fold lies in the footwall of a thrust fault (TF2), and in the hanging wall of an inferred
backthrust (BT2).



that labelled South applies to all map areas from Beaver north and south away from the river where the fault is seen to cut
Mines to the international border (Fig. 1). These differences up-section in its hanging wall at higher elevations (Fig. 9).
primarily reflect the level of stratigraphic understanding during
In the hanging wall of thrust fault TF1, along and adjacent to
mapping (as noted above), as well as the quality of exposure. the Crowsnest River, the sub-horizontal Virgelle Formation is
almost continuously exposed for a cross-strike distance of
approximately 750 m (Fig. 9). Figure 11 is an annotated
panorama, as viewed from the western edge of the inferred popup structure (viewpoint shown in Fig. 9). To the east-northeast,
the Virgelle Formation can be seen in the railroad cut which lies
Previous mapping in the study area, using different strati- in the immediate hanging wall of thrust TF1. Lundbreck Falls is
graphic subdivisions, is limited to Hage (1945) and located approximately 150 m due east of the railroad cut (indiJerzykiewicz and Norris (1994). Figure 9 is a portion of the cated in Fig. 11). South of the railroad and immediately overlyrecent map by Stockmal and Lebel (2003) that encompasses ing the Virgelle Formation exposed in the railroad cut is the
the interpreted pop-up structure. The area along and adjacent Deadhorse Coulee Formation (Figs. 9, 11). The first thick, comto the Crowsnest River, where the individual formations of the posite package of sandstones within this interval is seen in
Belly River Group are mappable, is indicated. Note that the Figure 11, south and upslope of the river. The stratigraphic posithree formations of the Milk River Group are mappable every- tion of this sandstone ledge is equivalent to the thick sandstones
where; this subdivision accounts for most of the improvement seen above the Virgelle Formation in Figure 8 and the promiof the new mapping in comparison with Hage (1945).
nent rib of outcrop above the Virgelle Formation in Figure 10
The location of the Lundbreck transition outcrop (Figs. 7, (lower left). In the distance beyond the railroad cut to the east8) is indicated near the centre of the map. This location lies on northeast the resistant sandstones of the Virgelle Formation can
the east limb of an upright anticline (the Tower Anticline of be seen in both limbs of the Tower Anticline (the Lundbreck
Jerzykiewicz and Norris, 1994) that is cut out to the north by transition outcrop is indicated in Fig. 11).
a backthrust (labelled BT1). The existence and position of this
At the Figure 11 viewpoint, and adjacent to Highway 3A, the
backthrust is clear from exposures along the Crowsnest River Virgelle Formation dips shallowly to the southeast, flattens
and from aerial photographs (Fig. 10). Westward from the toward the river, and then dips very shallowly to the northwest at
east-dipping Lundbreck transition outcrop there is a contin- the railroad cut (Figs. 9, 11). Overall, this geometry is somewhat
uous section down through the Virgelle Formation, the spoon-shaped with the long axis of the trough of the flexure
Telegraph Creek Formation, and into the Wapiabi Formation. nearly coincident with the course of the Crowsnest River.
The core of the Tower Anticline, occupied by the Wapiabi
To the north (Fig. 11), shallowly east-dipping Virgelle
Formation along the river, is completely exposed showing Formation crops out in a prominent rib that is structurally conlocally intense brittle, disharmonic, accommodation structures tinuous with the outcrops along the Crowsnest River, but physat centimetre to multi-metre scales, with both foreland- ically separated from it by erosion (Fig. 9). At the western end
directed and hinterland-directed minor faults. Farther of this rib is a west-facing anticline (Figs. 9, 11). This relatively
upstream (west), the next outcrops encountered are west- modest fold is dramatically expressed in aerial photographs due
dipping Virgelle Formation on the west limb of the anticline. to its shallow southward plunge and position on a slightly
The proximity of the Virgelle Formation with respect to the steeper southward topographic slope (Fig. 10, lower right).
hinge of the anticline indicates that the entire Telegraph Creek
Immediately west of the Figure 11 viewpoint is a gully and a
Formation and the base of the Virgelle Formation are missing. narrow (~50 m) zone of no exposure. The next outcrop to the
Within the context of contractional Foothills structures, this west is also Virgelle Formation, but its moderately west-dipping
relationship indicates a backthrust.
attitude is markedly different from exposures contiguous with
The backthrust interpretation is clearly supported by aerial those at Lundbreck Falls (Figs. 9, 11). Although there is very
photographs (Fig. 10, lower left) that show the Virgelle little stratigraphic offset, the presence of a foreland-directed
Formation in the west limb of the anticline being cut out pro- thrust fault between these outcrops becomes clear in the context
gressively to the north (c.f. Figs. 9, 10). This backthrust dies of structures mapped upslope to both the north and the south
out to the south, where the Virgelle Formation is folded with- (Fig. 9). In both these directions, this thrust (labelled TF2 in
out interruption across the Tower Anticline (Figs. 9, 10, top Figs. 9, 11) cuts up-section in its footwall. To the north, a large
continuous hinge indicated). Neither Hage (1945) nor upright to slightly east-facing anticline develops in the hanging
Jerzykiewicz and Norris (1994) recognized backthrust BT1.
wall that involves all formations of the Milk River Group
West of backthrust BT1 is a continuous west-dipping section (Figs. 9, 11). Hage (1945) did not recognize fault TF2, although
of Belly River strata, mappable along the Crowsnest River as it was mapped by Jerzykiewicz and Norris (1994).
Connelly Creek and Lundbreck formations (Fig. 9). In river
The juxtaposition of these two oppositely facing anticlines
exposures the moderately dipping Lundbreck Formation is over- involving the Virgelle Formation, across foreland-directed
ridden by a foreland-directed thrust fault (labelled TF1 in Fig. 9) thrust TF2 (Figs. 9, 11), is an unusual structural situation. As
carrying sub-horizontal Virgelle Formation. This thrust, which discussed below, this juxtaposition, coupled with the atypical
places a hanging wall ramp on a footwall flat, is easily followed flat-lying geometry of the structure through Lundbreck Falls, is


the basis for the interpretation of a cryptic backthrust and the

pop-up structure.
Farther to the west are a series of imbricate thrust sheets of
moderately to steeply dipping Milk River and Belly River
strata, typical of the Outer Foothills. In particular, the next
thrust sheet to the west (labelled TF3 in Fig. 9) places
Telegraph Creek Formation and probable Wapiabi Formation
onto Lundbreck Formation (Fig. 9). This prominent fault was
mapped by Hage (1945) but was interpreted by Jerzykiewicz
and Norris (1994) as a stratigraphic contact between formations
in the Belly River Group.
Figure 12 presents two annotated panoramic views from
viewpoints indicated in Figure 9. The panoramic view north
(Fig. 12, top) shows the following main features, from east to
west: (1) the Milk River Group and the basal Belly River sandstone in the hanging wall of backthrust BT1, which cuts off the
trace of the Tower Anticline to the north; (2) the continuous
panel of west-dipping Belly River strata in the footwall of
backthrust BT1, that also underlies the viewpoint location; (3)
the foreland-directed thrust TF1, that places Milk River Group
on Belly River Group; (4) the shallowly east-dipping panel of
Milk River Group strata in the hanging wall of thrust TF1; and
(5) the next foreland-directed thrust to the west, TF2, across
which the two anticlines noted above face each other.
The panoramic view south (Fig. 12, bottom) shows the following main features, from east to west: (1) Milk River Group
strata folded across the Tower Anticline, into the core of which
backthrust BT1 dies out; (2) the continuous panel of west-dipping Belly River strata on the west limb of the anticline (and to
the north, in the footwall of backthrust BT1) that underlies the
viewpoint location for the north-facing panorama; (3) forelanddirected thrust TF1, that places Milk River Group on Belly
River Group (fault TF1 bifurcates south of the Crowsnest
River); (4) the sub-horizontal panel of Milk River Group strata
in the hanging wall of thrust TF1, which tilts progressively
more westward as the structure is followed to the south; and (5)
the next foreland-directed thrust to the west, TF2.
Two cross-sections, constructed along the lines indicated in
Figure 9, are shown in Figure 13. The sections are intended to
assess the viability of the pop-up interpretation, and therefore are
only balanced at the level of exposure across the described structure. However, depth constraints are important to a degree, due
to the position of the sections above the apex of the triangle zone.
The upper detachment of the triangle zone in this area is a
narrow zone of high shear strain concentrated within the
Bearpaw Formation marine shales (Stockmal et al., 2001). In
the Blairmore East-Half map area (Stockmal and Lebel, 2003)
the upper detachment zone is structurally repeated by one or
more backthrusts (Fig. 9), and flattens quickly with depth to the
east (Bgin et al., 1996; Hiebert and Spratt, 1996).
The boundary between a dominantly east-dipping structural
domain, forming the deformed west limb of the Alberta syncline, and a dominantly west-dipping domain, typical of thrustimbricated Foothills structure, coincides with the hinge surface


of the Tower Anticline, or the associated backthrust (BT1) to the

north. Geometries of well-constrained triangle zones elsewhere
in southern Alberta (Bgin et al., 1996; Hiebert and Spratt,
1996; MacKay, 1996; Stockmal et al., 1996) suggest that this
dip reversal likely coincides with the apex of the triangle zone
(the dip reversal was also known formerly as the Front Fold;
Jones, 1982). Therefore, the east-dipping strata older than the
Bearpaw Formation (the upper detachment zone) must lie in the
hanging wall of one or more folded thrusts whose displacement
is transferred to the upper detachment. This provides an important constraint for cross-section construction.
The positions of the tops of the Mississippian carbonates
and the Lower Cretaceous Blairmore Group are known in the
Calstan C&E Cow Creek 6-30-8-1W5 well located approximately 8 km north of the Crowsnest River (projected into
Fig. 13). These depths provide general constraints on the geometry of the antiformal stack occupying the core of the triangle
zone (e.g. Bgin et al., 1996).
These local cross-sections (Fig. 13) are balanced and
restored at the level of the Milk River Group only, using the
familiar line-length balancing technique (Dahlstrom, 1969). A
restored cutoff angle of 30 is assumed for the Milk River
Group above the apex of the triangle zone (Fig. 13, restored
sections). The restored cutoff angles of other faults to the west
are derived from the line-length balancing approach. Also
shown are loose lines (e.g., Woodward et al., 1985) which
indicate that overall the deformed cross-sections contain an
acceptable sense and magnitude of simple shear strain parallel
to bedding (Fig. 13).
The relatively broad, sub-horizontal geometry of the
Virgelle Formation strata at Lundbreck Falls (Fig. 13, South
Section) is very clearly anomalous in comparison with the
moderately to steeply dipping thrust sheets to the west and the
east. This structure lies above a hanging wall ramp that has
been thrust onto a footwall flat on thrust TF1. West of
Lundbreck Falls, three foreland-directed thrusts are shown in
the cross-sections. The fault closest to the falls (TF2) has modest apparent displacement, whereas the other two have probable displacements of a few kilometers. These last two faults are
not included in the restoration because they are not relevant to
the pop-up argument.
Comparison of the south and north cross-sections shows the
progressive eastward rotation of the sub-horizontal panel of
Milk River Group strata from south to north. This sense of rotation or twisting along strike continues to the south, as is evident
in the south-facing panoramic view in Figure 12 (bottom).
The inset in Figure 13, next to the north cross-section, is a
blow-up showing details of the two anticlines discussed above,
that face each other across foreland-directed thrust TF2.
Footwall synclines are a very common occurrence in thrustand-fold belts, but footwall anticlines are rare. This juxtaposition of anticlines occurs where there is very little stratigraphic
offset across TF2. At the latitude of the north section it is
possible to replace the fault with a syncline, but fault TF2 is
clearly expressed at the Crowsnest River to the south, and in
the hills to the north (Fig. 9). Also, the Virgelle Formation is



Fig. 13. Structural cross-sections and palinspastic restorations. Lines of section indicated in Figure 9. Tadpoles indicate projected
structural dip measurements. Enlargement of folds in north section shown in inset. Belly River Group is shown as undivided, although
formation contacts are shown as dotted lines in south section (cc: Connelly Creek; lb: Lundbreck; dw: Drywood Creek). See text for discussion.


not seen to form multi-hinged folds in other well-constrained

cases in the Foothills.
A reasonable explanation for this structure involves a cryptic backthrust, as shown in both cross-sections (labeled BT2).
In this interpretation, the anticline in the footwall of forelanddirected thrust TF2 also lies in the hanging wall of backthrust
BT2, and the facing direction of the anticline is then consistent with the sense of shear on the backthrust (as shown in
Fig. 3). The existence of backthrust BT1 documented 1.5 km
to the east lends additional support to this interpretation, in
the sense that if mechanical conditions existed that were conducive to creating one backthrust, then a second becomes
more plausible.
The restored cross-sections further suggest a linkage
between backthrust BT1, documented west of the Lundbreck
transition outcrop and the interpreted, cryptic backthrust BT2.
Both these backthrusts are associated with foreland-directed
faults, forming pop-up structure geometries in restoration
(Fig. 13). The position of the inferred foreland-directed thrust
at depth, east of the Lundbreck transition outcrop in restoration,
is constrained simply by assuming that the uppermost fault of
the inferred antiformal stack filling the triangle zone is
detached at about the same stratigraphic level as implied for
the west-dipping thrust sheets (somewhere in the Wapiabi
Formation marine shales, indicated in the restored crosssections as a broad cross-hatched zone).
Evidence for the inferred pop-up structure is indirect only,
and hinges on the atypically broad and flat-lying structure centred at Lundbreck Falls, the juxtaposition of the two anticlines
across thrust fault TF2, and the existence of a nearby backthrust
BF1. The narrow zone shown on Figure 9, between the trace of
inferred backthrust BT2 and the trace of the mapped forelanddirected thrust TF2, unfortunately contains no outcrop. This
zone is shown in Figure 9 as underlain by Deadhorse Coulee
Formation, but this is speculative and based merely on crosssection restoration (Fig. 13).
The pop-up interpretation is motivated in part by the geometric similarity, in the restored sections, of the inferred popup structure at Lundbreck Falls, bounded by faults TF1 and
BF2, and the structure at the east end of the restored section,
bounded by the 30 cutoff fault and fault BT1. Backthrust BT1,
very clear from mapping, provides inspiration for the interpretation of backthrust BT2, largely as a means of explaining the
juxtaposition of the two anticlines across fault TF2. This interpretation leads to a fault geometry that suggests a pop-up structure, which in turn provides a viable interpretation for the
anomalous, broad, and nearly flat-lying structure centred at
Lundbreck Falls. Consistent with the pop-up structure interpretation, the restored fault geometry seen at the east end of the
cross-sections might also be a pop-up structure, that may have
developed at an early stage of shortening in front of the triangle zone, and was later carried into a position above the apex of


the triangle zone. If mechanical conditions were conducive to

the creation of one pop-up structure perhaps requiring
almost-exact bed-parallel maximum compressive stress such
that one Andersonian fault orientation (Anderson, 1905) is not
chosen preferentially over the other then more than one
could develop.
A speculative association between pop-up structures and
the triangle zone is illustrated schematically in Figure 14.
Figure 14a shows an idealized triangle zone (shaded),
bounded by (1) a foreland-directed lower detachment, (2) a
hinterland-directed upper detachment, and (3) the first foreland-directed thrust fault that crops out in the footwall of the
upper detachment. Typically, triangle zones are filled by a
duplex structure where displacement on individual forelanddirected thrusts is transferred to hinterland-directed motion
on the upper detachment (e.g., see MacKay et al., 1996).
Shown beneath and in front of the triangle zone in Figure 14a
are two nascent duplex horses, labelled A and B. Assuming an
in-sequence development of the wedge, horse A would be
incorporated into the triangle zone prior to incorporation of
horse B. The frontal ramps of these horses are shown with
low to moderate dips of 1020, consistent with observed
values for southern and central Alberta compiled by Spratt
and Lawton (1996).
An alternative configuration for nascent duplex horses
involves the incorporation of pop-up structures initiated in
front of the triangle zone, as illustrated in Figure 14b, where
the foreland-directed thrusts bounding the pop-ups are utilized as in option (3) in Figure 3. These thrusts form ramps
with steeper dips of perhaps 3035 (Fig. 14b), resulting in
relatively large hanging wall cutoff angles, as observed for
thrust TF1 (Figs. 9, 13). The nascent horses, labeled A and B
in Figure 14b, are subsequently incorporated into the advancing triangle zone, where they are structurally elevated and
back-rotated through accretion of additional duplex horses as
shown in Figure 14c.
Thrust fault TF2 is interpreted here as a relatively late feature, that overrode the pop-up structure following motion on
backthrust BT2 (Fig. 14c). This is a plausible explanation for
the spacing of foreland-directed thrusts seen in the restored sections (Fig. 13), where faults TF1 and TF2 are much more
closely spaced than the other documented faults. Fault TF2
may have branched upward from near the top of the thrust ramp
of fault TF1 that must exist at depth (Figs. 13, 14c), similar to
the evolution of an idealized pop-up structure illustrated in
Figures 3c and 3d.
It is common to interpret faults in the cores of folds as being
genetically related to the folds. In the case of backthrust BT1,
this fault could be merely an accommodation structure associated with the tight Tower Anticline. An alternative interpretation, favoured here, is that both BT1 and the Tower Anticline
are related through their association with a pop-up structure, as
shown conceptually in Figures 3 and 14. In this case, the termination of the fault defines an approximate southern limit to
the extent of the original pop-up structure.



Fig. 14. Schematic triangle zone configurations and possible relationships to pop-up structures. (a) Idealized configuration showing the three
sides (numbered, see text for explanation) bounding the triangle zone (shaded). Short-dashed lines indicate nascent thrusts with relatively low
frontal ramp angles bounding horses labelled A and B. (b) Similar to configuration in (a) except relatively steep frontal ramps of nascent horses A
and B coincide with foreland-directed thrusts bounding pop-up structures (thick-dashed lines). Note possible correspondence to mapped faults
BT1, BT2, TF1, and TF3. (c) Possible configuration of (b) following triangle zone advance and incorporation of horses A, B, and others. Compare
geometries of labelled faults with those in Figure 13. Thick, solid, black lines are faults bounding the pop-up structures; thin, solid, black lines are
detachments corresponding to thin, long-dashed, black lines in (b). See text for discussion.

Detailed mapping along and adjacent to the Crowsnest
River, facilitated by a refined stratigraphic subdivision of the
former Belly River Formation, indicates an atypical, flatlying, fault-bounded structure near Lundbreck Falls. This
structure is best interpreted as a pop-up exposed near the apex
of the triangle zone. The backthrust to the pop-up structure,

fault BT2, is cryptic. The interpretation of BT2 is motivated in

part by the nearby, documented backthrust BT1, and offers a
reasonable explanation for the juxtaposition of oppositely facing anticlines across thrust fault TF2. In cross-sectional
restorations, the documented backthrust to the east (BT1) is
involved in a similar pop-up geometry, suggesting a fundamental relationship between the triangle zone and pop-ups at
this locality.


I wish to thank GSC colleagues Margot McMechan and
Daniel Lebel for feedback involving the structural geology and
mappable stratigraphy, Kirk Osadetz for an internal review, and
Art Sweet and Tony Hamblin for discussions and joint field
investigations involving detailed aspects of Upper Cretaceous
stratigraphy. I also wish to thank Bulletin referees Phil de
Gruyter and Michael L. Morrison for thorough and very useful
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Manuscript received: July 3, 2003

Manuscript accepted: October 10, 2003