Previously unreleased fission-track results and regional structural relationships are used to interpret the migration of deformation during Cenozoic orogenesis in the Eastern Cordillera (Cordillera Oriental) of the Colombian Andes. Low-temperature thermochronological results are based on apatite and zircon fission-track analyses of 41 samples collected along vertical and horizontal transects across the Eastern Cordillera at 4–7°N latitude. Inverse modeling of fission-track results helps delimit the most probable cooling histories caused by exhumation linked to upper-crustal deformation. These inverse models are constrained by known structural geometries, chronostratigraphy, biostratigraphy, and vitrinite reflectance data.
Fission-track data and modeling results indicate a close correspondence in the timing and style of deformation along the western and eastern flanks of the Eastern Cordillera. East-directed fold-thrust deformation along the eastern boundary with the Llanos foreland basin was underway by the late Oligocene and early Miocene. Similarly, west-directed fold-thrust structures along the western boundary with the intermontane middle Magdalena Valley Basin became active at approximately the same time. Less well known is the time of initial shortening within the axial segment of the Eastern Cordillera; although fission-track results suggest active exhumation by the early Miocene, shortening may have commenced much earlier during the late Eocene.
Timing relationships for the Eastern Cordillera have important implications for the generation, migration, and accumulation of petroleum in the middle Magdalena Valley intermontane basin and the Llanos foreland basin. Our study provides a regional context to assess the timing of structural trap development and improve exploration and development of new and existing reservoirs in Colombia and analogous fold-thrust systems elsewhere.