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Mesozoic strata of the northwestern Talkeetna Mountains are located in a regional suture zone between the allochthonous Wrangellia composite terrane and the former Mesozoic continental margin of North America (i.e., the Yukon-Tanana terrane). New geologic mapping, measured stratigraphic sections, and provenance data define a distinct three-part stratigraphy for these strata. The lowermost unit is greater than 290 m thick and consists of Upper Triassic–Lower Jurassic mafic lavas, fossiliferous limestone, and a volcaniclastic unit that collectively we informally refer to as the Honolulu Pass formation. The uppermost 75 m of the Honolulu Pass formation represent a condensed stratigraphic interval that records limited sedimentation over a period of up to ca. 25 m.y. during Early Jurassic time. The contact between the Honolulu Pass formation and the overlying Upper Jurassic–Lower Cretaceous clastic marine strata of the Kahiltna assemblage represents a ca. 20 m.y. depositional hiatus that spans the Middle Jurassic and part of Late Jurassic time. The Kahiltna assemblage may to be up to 3000 m thick and contains detrital zircons that have a robust U-Pb peak probability age of 119.2 Ma (i.e., minimum crystallization age/maximum depositional age). These data suggest that the upper age of the Kahiltna assemblage may be a minimum of 10–15 m.y. younger than the previously reported upper age of Valanginian. Sandstone composition (Q-43% F-30% L-27%—Lv-71% Lm-18% Ls-11%) and U-Pb detrital zircon ages suggest that the Kahiltna assemblage received igneous detritus mainly from the active Chisana arc, remnant Chitina and Talkeetna arcs, and Permian–Triassic plutons (Alexander terrane) of the Wrangellia composite terrane. Other sources of detritus for the Kahiltna assemblage were Upper Triassic–Lower Jurassic plutons of the Taylor Mountains batholith and Devonian–Mississippian plutons; both of these source areas are part of the Yukon-Tanana terrane. The Kahiltna assemblage is overlain by previously unrecognized nonmarine strata informally referred to here as the Caribou Pass formation. This unit is at least 250 m thick and has been tentatively assigned an Albian–Cenomanian-to-younger age based on limited palynomorphs and fossil leaves. Sandstone composition (Q-65% F-9% L-26%—Lv-28% Lm-52% Ls-20%) from this unit suggests a quartz-rich metamorphic source terrane that we interpret as having been the Yukon-Tanana terrane. Collectively, provenance data indicate that there was a fundamental shift from mainly arc-related sediment derivation from sources located south of the study area during Jurassic–Early Cretaceous (Aptian) time (Kahiltna assemblage) to mainly continental margin-derived sediment from sources located north and east of the study area by Albian–Cenomanian time (Caribou Pass formation). We interpret the three-part stratigraphy defined for the northwestern Talkeetna Mountains to represent pre- (the Honolulu Pass formation), syn- (the Kahiltna assemblage), and post- (the Caribou Pass formation) collision of the Wrangellia composite terrane with the Mesozoic continental margin. A similar Mesozoic stratigraphy appears to exist in other parts of south-central and southwestern Alaska along the suture zone based on previous regional mapping studies. New geologic mapping utilizing the three-part stratigraphy interprets the northwestern Talkeetna Mountains as consisting of two northwest-verging thrust sheets. Our structural interpretation is that of more localized thrust-fault imbrication of the three-part stratigraphy in contrast to previous interpretations of nappe emplacement or terrane translation that require large-scale displacements.

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