Detailed outcrop analysis of the Lower Jurassic Kayenta Formation provides the basis for the formulation of a new sequence stratigraphic model for arid to semi-arid continental deposits and the generation of a comprehensive set of sedimentologic criteria for the recognition of ephemeral stream deposits. Criteria for the recognition of ephemeral deposits in the ancient record were divided into three categories according to the scale of the feature being considered. The first category takes into account sedimentary structures commonly found in the record of ephemeral stream deposits including hyperconcentrated and debris flow deposits, planar parallel bedding, sigmoidal cross-bedding, hummocky cross-bedding, climbing ripple lamination, scour-and-fill structures, convolute bedding, overturned cross-bedding, ball-and-pillow structures, pocket structures, pillars, mud curls, flaser lamination, algal lamination, termite nests, and vertebrate tracks. The second category is concerned with the mesoscale facies architecture of ephemeral stream deposits and includes waning flow successions, bedform climb, downstream accretion, terminal wadi splays, and channel-fill successions indicating catastrophic flooding. At the large-scale facies architecture level, the third category, ephemeral stream deposits are commonly arranged in depositional units characterized by a downstream decrease in grain size and scale of sedimentary structures resulting from deposition in terminal fan systems.
Outcrops of the Kayenta Formation and its transition to the Navajo Sandstone along the Vermilion and Echo Cliffs of Northern Arizona indicate that wet/dry climatic cyclicity exerted a major control on regional facies architecture. Two scales of wet/dry climatic cyclicity can be recognized in northern Arizona. Three sequence sets composed of rocks accumulated under predominantly dry or wet conditions are the expression of long-term climatic cyclicity. Short-term climatic cyclicity, on the other hand, is represented by high-frequency sequences composed of eolian or ephemeral fluvial deposits overlain by perennial fluvial sediments. Increased evapotranspiration rates, depressed water tables, and accumulation of eolian or ephemeral fluvial deposits characterize the dry portion of these cycles. The wet part of the cycles is marked by an increase in precipitation and the establishment of perennial fluvial systems and lacustrine basins. This depositional model constitutes a valuable tool for correlation of similar deposits in the subsurface.