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Geologic mapping, age determinations, and geochemistry of rocks exposed in the Abiquiu area of the Abiquiu embayment of the Rio Grande rift, north-central New Mexico, provide data to determine fault-slip and incision rates. Vertical-slip rates for faults in the area range from 16 m/m.y. to 42 m/m.y., and generally appear to decrease from the eastern edge of the Colorado Plateau to the Abiquiu embayment. Incision rates calculated for the period ca. 10 to ca. 3 Ma indicate rapid incision with rates that range from 139 m/m.y. on the eastern edge of the Colorado Plateau to 41 m/m.y. on the western part of the Abiquiu embayment.

The Abiquiu area is located along the margin of the Colorado Plateau–Rio Grande rift and lies within the Abiquiu embayment, a shallow, early extensional basin of the Rio Grande rift. Cenozoic rocks include the Eocene El Rito Formation, Oligocene Ritito Conglomerate, Oligocene–Miocene Abiquiu Formation, and Miocene Chama–El Rito and Ojo Caliente Sandstone Members of the Tesuque Formation (Santa Fe Group). Volcanic rocks include the Lobato Basalt (Miocene; ca. 15–8 Ma), El Alto Basalt (Pliocene; ca. 3 Ma), and dacite of the Tschicoma Formation (Pliocene; ca. 2 Ma). Quaternary deposits consist of inset axial and side-stream deposits of the ancestral Rio Chama (Pleistocene in age), landslide and pediment alluvium and colluvium, and Holocene main and side-stream channel and floodplain deposits of the modern Rio Chama. The predominant faults are Tertiary normal high-angle faults that displace rocks basinward.

A low-angle fault, referred to as the Abiquiu fault, locally separates an upper plate composed of the transitional zone of the Ojo Caliente Sandstone and Chama–El Rito Members from a lower plate consisting of the Abiquiu Formation or the Ritito Conglomerate. The upper plate is distended into blocks that range from about 0.1 km to 3.5 km long that may represent a larger sheet that has been broken up and partly eroded.

Geochronology (40Ar/39Ar) from fifteen volcanic and intrusive rocks resolves discrete volcanic episodes in the Abiquiu area: (1) emplacement of Early and Late Miocene basaltic dikes at 20 Ma and ca. 10 Ma; (2) extensive Late Miocene–age lava flows at 9.5 Ma, 7.9 Ma, and 5.6 Ma; and (3) extensive basaltic eruptions during the early Pliocene at 2.9 Ma and 2.4 Ma. Clasts of biotite- and hornblende-rich trachyandesites and trachydacites from the base of the Abiquiu Formation are dated at ca. 27 Ma, possibly derived from the Latir volcanic field. The most-mafic magmas are interpreted to be generated from a similar lithospheric mantle during rifting, but variations in composition are correlated with partial melting at different depths, which is correlated with thinning of the crust due to extensional processes.

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