US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



The Holocene 13,1 (2003) pp. 121–129.


U. S. government work.


Aeolian deposits in the North American Great Plains are important sources of Holocene palaeoenvironmental records. Although there are extensive studies on loess and dune records in the region, little is known about records in aeolian cliff-top deposits. These are common on table (mesa) edges in the White River Badlands. These sediments typically have loam and sandy-loam textures with dominantly very fine sand, 0.5–1% organic carbon and 0.5–5% CaCO3. Some of these aeolian deposits are atypically coarse and contain granules and fine pebbles. Buried soils within these deposits are weakly developed with A-C and A-AC-C profiles. Beneath these are buried soils with varying degrees of pedogenic development formed in fluvial, aeolian or colluvial deposits. Thickness and number of buried soils vary. However, late-Holocene soils from several localities have ages of approximately 1300, 2500 and 3700 14C yrs BP. The 1300 14C yr BP soil is cumulic, with a thicker and lighter A horizon. Soils beneath the cliff-top deposits are early-Holocene (typically 7900 but as old as 10000 14C yrs BP) at higher elevation (approx. 950 m) tables, and late-Holocene (2900 14C yrs BP) at lower (approx. 830 m) tables. These age estimates are based on total organic matter 14C ages from the top 5 cm of buried soils, and agreement is good between an infrared stimulated luminescence age and bracketing 14C ages. Our studies show that cliff-top aeolian deposits have a history similar to that of other aeolian deposits on the Great Plains, and they are another source of palaeoenvironmental data.