by: Charles O’Dale

  • Type: Probable complex
  • Age Ma: 200 ± 25 a
  • Diameter: 9.1 km
  • Location: N 47° 36’ W 103° 33’

Estimates from stratigraphy. Red Wing Creek produces (oil) from disrupted Mississippian beds, the impact event there is not Mississippian in age but occurred later-in the Jurassic-Triassic in this case. Impact craters formed in middle and late Paleozoic time have been found elsewhere but are apparently absent in petroliferous regions, Donofrio 1998

The 9 km diameter Red Wing Creek structure is located in North Dakota, ~36 km east of the Montana-North Dakota border. It “falls” within the oil-rich Williston Basin (an ~130,000 km2 shallow intracratonic basin).
Red Wing Crater – North Dakota’s, Red Wing impact crater is recorded in the Earth Impact Database as an unexposed 9 km structure. It is buried beneath about 2000 meters of sedimentary rock.
Red Wing structure – the superimposed circle illustrates the position of the buried crater. This image, aimed looking east at the approximate point of impact, was taken from GO ZooM at approximately 4500 feet AGL..
The red dot represents the approximate area of the Red Wing impact approximately 200 million years ago in the Triassic Period.
Compilation of selected terrestrial meteorite impacts during the Triassic and the postulated Late Triassic multiple impact theory, modified after Spray et al.(1998). Lucas et al.(2012)suggested an age of ∼220 Ma for the Carnian/Norian boundary, which has an age of ∼227Ma in the current International Stratigraphic Chart (Cohen et al., 2013). Impact age data from Koeberl et al.(1996), Ramezani et al.(2005), Schmieder and Buchner (2008), Schmieder et al.(2010)and this study.
Red Wing structure – the superimposed circle illustrates the position of the buried crater. This image, aimed looking east at the approximate point of impact, was taken from GO ZooM at approximately 4500 feet AGL.

The Red Wing Creek Field in the Williston Basin was discovered in 1972, and is one of a few well-known petroleum fields in the world to produce from a structure associated with a meteorite impact. Interpretation of a 3-D seismic dataset, covering 145 km2 over Red Wing Creek Field, shows that the crater has a diameter of 9.1 km and can be divided into three unique structural zones. First, the central uplift complex has a maximum diameter of 5.1 km, and consists of an uplifted central core, composed entirely of strata of the Mississippian Madison Group, and a flanking inner rim. The seismic reflectivity within the central core is poor, but well log data indicates extensive stratigraphic repetition. The central core is surrounded by an annular rim (1.7 km wide), which is structurally thickened by imbricate thrusts that dip towards the central core. This rim comprises eight distinct radial sectors, segmented by nine high-angle, reverse faults.

Red Wing structure imaged from approximately 4500 feet AGL. The wing of GOZooM is looking north east and is aimed at the point of impact.

The second portion of the crater is a depressed annular trough with a maximum diameter of 1.5 km; its inner limit is bounded by antithetic normal faults and its outer limit by concentrically linked normal faults that dip toward the central part of the crater. This group of faults marks the edge of the third zone, the outer rim. The outer rim is slightly uplifted, relatively undisturbed, and its strata dip at a maximum angle of 8° away from the central crater.

Through detailed mapping of the stratigraphy and structural features within the Red Wing Creek seismic dataset, a multistep kinematic model of crater formation has been developed. The first step is the contact/compression stage that produced a shockwave, which propagated as deep as the Middle Devonian strata. The next stage was the excavation stage that removed the Upper Mississippian through Triassic/Jurassic section in the central crater. The final stage of formation is the modification stage, which produced most of the structural features, present in the crater’s final morphology (folding, outward directed thrusting, and radial faulting), due to the interaction of the inward collapsing crater walls and the outward collapsing central uplift complex (Herber 2010).

Seismic intersect image, Red Wing Creek Field. Image courtesy of Roger Barton and True Oil.

Earlier geophysical studies indicated that this subsurface structure has a central uplift, surrounded by an annular crater moat, and a raised rim. Breccias were encountered during drilling between ∼2000 and 2800 m depth in the central uplift area, and the presence of shatter cone fragments in drill core samples was suggested to indicate an impact origin of the Red Wing Creek structure. The petrographic and geochemical characteristics of samples of well cuttings from two boreholes at the center of the structure were studied. Planar deformation features (PDFs) in quartz with up to three sets of different crystallographic orientations were found in sandstone- and siltstone-dominated samples. The relative frequencies of the orientations indicate a shock pressure of at least 12–20 GPa. These results provide unambiguous evidence for shock metamorphism at Red Wing Creek and confirm that the structure was formed by impact (Koeberl et al 1996).

From Donofrio 1981:

The Red Wing structure is divided into three main provinces: a central uplift surrounded by a ring depression which in turn is surrounded by an outer rim. These are summarized below:

1. The central uplift is about 6.5km in diameter and consists of a chaotic arrangement of thrust faults, moderate- to steep-dipping beds, and overturned beds. Based on log correlations, the structural pattern is interpreted as having a 1.6km diameter inner zone of intense deformation and uplift, away from which deformation decreases in both horizontal and downward directions. Within this area of maximum deformation which has created a mega-breccia, Mississippian carbonates have been thrust as much as 915m above regional subsurface elevation. The main oil productive area of the structure is confined to this mega-breccia. The original 22X-28 “dry well”, however, is an exception; it was later recompleted as an oil well by another operator.

2. The ring depression is a syncline or graben which surrounds the central uplift. It is approximately 1.6km wide and is bounded by deformed rocks of the outer rim. The principal deformation evident in the ring depression is normal faulting, with fault blocks having moved inward towards the central uplift as well as downward. Displacements in the upper horizons range from 175 to 115m below expected regional elevations, and as much as 975m below equivalent formations in the central uplift.

3. The outer rim surrounds the ring depression and is composed of mildly-deformed rocks. Formations in this area are 90-185m structurally higher than their equivalents in the ring depression. A discontinuous narrow anticline with 45-60m of closure parallels the boundary between the rim and ring depression. Seismic investigation has shown that it has a width of less than 1.6km at its widest location.

(Donofrio 1981).
Diagrammatic cross-section of Red Wing Creek [modified from Brenan et al 1975](Donofrio 1981).

Sawatzky H.B. Buried impact craters in the Williston Basin and adjacent area Lunar and Planetary Institute 1977

Diagrammatic cross-section of Red Wing Creek [modified from Brenan et al 1975](Donofrio 1981).


Brenan, R. L., Peterson, B. L. and Smith, H. J., 1975. The origin of Red Wing Creek structure: McKenzie County, North Dakota, Wyoming Geol. Assoc.Earth Sci. Bull., 8, 1-41.

Brent Dalrymple, Radiometric Dating Does Work! Reports of the National Center for Science Education

M.H.L. Deenen, M. Ruhl, N.R. Bonis,W. Krijgsman, W.M. Kuerschner, M. Reitsma, M.J. van Bergen, A new chronology for the end-Triassic mass extinction. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 2009.

Donofrio, R.R., North American impact structures hold giant field potential. Oil and Gas Journal, 1998.

Donofrio, R.R.: Impact Craters: Implications for Basement Hydrocarbon Production. Journal of Petroleum Geology, 1981.

Grieve, R. A. F., Kreis, K., Therriault, A.M.and P.B.Robertson., Impact structures in the Williston Basin. Meteoritics and Planetary Science, v 33, n 4, p A63-A64. 1998.

Herber, Benjamin David, 3D Seismic Interpretation of a Meteorite Impact, Red Wing Creek Field, Williston Basin, western North Dakota. UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER, 2010

Koeberl, C., Reimold, W.U. and Brandt,D., Red Wing Creek structure, North Dakota: Petrographical and geochemical studies, and confirmation of impact origin. Meteoritics & Planetary Science, v. 31, pp. 335-342. 1996.

Smith, R. Dark days of the Triassic: Lost world – Did a giant impact 200 million years ago trigger a mass extinction and pave the way for the dinosaurs? NATURE 17 Nov. Vol#479 2011.

H. B. Sawatzky, Buried impact craters in the Williston Basin and adjacent area, Impact and explosion cratering – Lunar and Planetary Institute 1977

University of New Brunswick