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Provenance analysis of the Ochoco basin, central Oregon: A window into the Late Cretaceous paleogeography of the northern U.S. Cordillera

Kathleen D. Surpless
Kathleen D. Surpless
Department of Geosciences, Trinity University, One Trinity Place, San Antonio, Texas 78212, USA
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Kirk D.H. Gulliver
Kirk D.H. Gulliver
Department of Geosciences, Trinity University, One Trinity Place, San Antonio, Texas 78212, USASouthwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, Texas 78238, USA
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Publication history
05 February 201801 August 2018


Cretaceous forearc strata of the Ochoco basin in central Oregon may preserve a record of regional transpression, magmatism, and mountain building within the Late Cretaceous Cordillera. Given the volume of material that must have been eroded from the Sierra Nevada and Idaho batholith to result in modern exposures of mid- and deep-crustal rocks, Cretaceous forearc basins have the potential to preserve a record of arc magmatism no longer preserved within the arc, if forearc sediment can be confidently linked to sources. Paleogeographic models for mid-Cretaceous time indicate that the Blue Mountains and the Ochoco sedimentary overlap succession experienced postdepositional, coast-parallel, dextral translation of less than 400 km or as much as 1700 km. Our detailed provenance study of the Ochoco basin and comparison of Ochoco basin provenance with that of the Hornbrook Formation, Great Valley Group, and Methow basin test paleogeographic models and the potential extent of Cretaceous forearc deposition. Deposition of Ochoco strata was largely Late Cretaceous, from Albian through at least Santonian time (ca. 113–86 Ma and younger), rather than Albian–Cenomanian (ca. 113–94 Ma). Provenance characteristics of the Ochoco basin are consistent with northern U.S. Cordilleran sources, and Ochoco strata may represent the destination of much of the mid- to Late Cretaceous Idaho arc that was intruded and eroded during and following rapid transpression along the western Idaho shear zone. Our provenance results suggest that the Hornbrook Formation and Ochoco basin formed two sides of the same depositional system, which may have been linked to the Great Valley Group to the south by Coniacian time, but was not connected to the Methow basin. These results limit northward displacement of the Ochoco basin to less than 400 km relative to the North American craton, and suggest that the anomalously shallow paleomagnetic inclinations may result from significant inclination error, rather than deposition at low latitudes. Our results demonstrate that detailed provenance analysis of forearc strata complements the incomplete record of arc magmatism and tectonics preserved in bedrock exposures, and permits improved understanding of Late Cretaceous Cordilleran paleogeography.

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GSA Special Papers

Tectonics, Sedimentary Basins, and Provenance: A Celebration of the Career of William R. Dickinson

Geological Society of America
ISBN electronic:




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