The Basin covers approximately (506,000 km²) of which approximately (430,000 km²) is on land.
The basin is also a distinct physiographic province of the larger West Australian Shield division.
The Canning Basin is home to a Devonian fossil reef complex that stretches 350 km across the northern edge of the basin. The fossil reef is very well preserved and is cut by several modern canyons, including Geikie Gorge and Windjana Gorge. The fossil sites associated the ancient reef system that extended for around one thousand kilometres along what is now the northwest of the Australian continent, described as resembling the modern Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Eastern Australia. The sites have produced ancient fossil material in an excellent state of preservation, most notably those revealing details of the structure of skeletons and soft-tissues of early amphibians. One important site is referred to as the "Devonian 'Great Barrier Reef'", and another, the "Gogo fish fossil site" (the Gogo formation), is name for the discovery of the Gogo fish.
The internal features of the basin include:
- sub basins - the Fitzroy Trough-Gregory Sub-basin complex, the Willara Sub-basin, and the Kidson Sub-basin complex
- shelves - Anketell shelf, Billiluna shelf, Tabletop shelf, Lennard shelf, Ryan Shelf
- terraces - Balgo terrace
The Australian Bureau of Mineral Resources report of the geology of the basin outlines the early exploration:
The Bureau started field work in the Canning Basin in 1947 and continued every year up to 1958. This work was carried out by geological parties equipped with land vehicles (1947-56) and with a helicopter (1957), by seismic and gravity parties, by an airborne magnetic party, and by a stratigraphical drilling party (1955-58). All work was based on air photographs, at a scale of 1:50,000, prepared by the R.A.A.F. This bulletin incorporates the results of all these surveys. The first attempt at compiling a geology of the Canning Basin was made by Reeves in 1949
- Geoscience Australia - Geological summary Archived 11 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- John Veevers; Wells, A. T. (Allan Thomas); Australia. Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics (1961), The geology of the Canning Basin, Western Australia, Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics, retrieved 21 January 2012
- Logan, Brian W; Webby, B. D. (Barry D.), (ed.); Semeniuk, V, (joint author.); Geological Society of Australia (1976), Dynamic metamorphism : processes and products in Devonian carbonate rocks, Canning Basin, Western Australia, Geological Society of Australia, ISBN 978-0-909869-08-3CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
- Canning Basin Symposium (1984 : Perth, W.A.); Purcell, Peter G; Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia; Geological Society of Australia. Western Australian Branch (1984), The Canning Basin W.A, Geological Society of Australia Inc. and Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia Ltd, ISBN 978-0-909869-37-3
- E., Johnson, Markes; Gregory, Webb, (1 September 2007). "Outer Rocky Shores of the Mowanbini Archipelago, Devonian Reef Complex, Canning Basin, Western Australia". eprints.qut.edu.au.
- Australian Heritage Council (2012). Australia's fossil heritage : a catalogue of important Australian fossil sites. CSIRO Publishing. pp. 111–116. ISBN 9780643101777.
- Dörling, Simon L; University of Western Australia. Department of Geology and Geophysics (1995), Structural evolution of the southeast Fitzroy Trough and Lennard Shelf, Western Australia during the Devonian-Early Carboniferous Pillara Tectonic Episode : implications for facies distribution and Mississippi Valley-type Pb-Zn mineralisation, retrieved 3 December 2016
- Koop, W. J; Burdett, J. W; Burdett, J. W. Canning Basin, Kidson Sub-Basin geological map; West Australian Petroleum Pty. Ltd (1964), Geological survey of the Kidson sub-basin, Canning basin, Western Australia, West Australian Petroleum Pty. Ltd.?], retrieved 3 December 2016CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
- these and other features are identified at the map - http://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/energy/province-sedimentary-basin-geology/petroleum/onshore-australia/canning-basin#heading-1
- The geology of the Canning Basin, Western Australia, Geoscience Australia, retrieved 3 December 2016[permanent dead link]
- Raine, M. J. (1972) Bibliography of the Canning Basin, Western Australia. Canberra : Australian Government Publishing Service. Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics. Reports ; no. 155. ISBN 0-642-00080-8
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