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Tascotal Mesa transfer zone—An element of the Border Corridor transform system, Rio Grande rift of West Texas and adjacent Mexico

Patricia Wood Dickerson
Patricia Wood Dickerson
American Geological Institute and Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, C1160, Austin, Texas 78712-0254, USA
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April 01, 2013

Tascotal Mesa fault is the principal component of Tascotal Mesa transfer zone within the Rio Grande rift of Texas (USA) and Chihuahua (Mexico). Strata and structures along the zone attest to ~290 m.y. of tectonic and magmatic activity, from at least late Paleozoic time onward. The transfer zone comprises the Tascotal Mesa and newly documented Christmas Mountains–Grapevine Hills faults, as well as the Terlingua Creek pull-apart complex at the right step between those two dextral zones. Strike-slip (to ~1 km) and dip-slip (to ~735 m) displacements have occurred in the zone during the past 30–27 m.y.; young faults of the transfer zone displace mid-Pleistocene caliches. Stable isotope and palynologic data from travertines in the transfer zone indicate ascent of warm waters (25°–35 °C) along faults as recently as mid- to late Pleistocene time.

Older, basement-rooted structural anisotropies are present in the Tascotal Mesa transfer zone but not all have been reactivated during Cenozoic rifting. Geophysically constrained physical models integrated with field data demonstrate that the Terlingua Creek pull-apart basin likely formed in cover strata that were detached from basement, as the orientations of surficial and buried basement structures differ markedly. Dip-slip displacement predominates on pull-apart faults, with significant dextral slip.

Analysis of the role of the Tascotal Mesa transfer zone in Rio Grande rifting revealed that it and the flanking grabens (Presidio to the northwest; Redford to the southeast) are all parts of the Border Corridor transform zone. This transform zone interconnects rift segments from Mesilla graben to the Sunken Block and includes both transfer zones and grabens. Right-transtensional deformation, as manifested in historic earthquakes, accounts for differing orientations of transform (northwest) versus rift (north) grabens.

Petrographic and geochronologic data indicate ascent of lavas of rift geochemical character in both the Tascotal Mesa transfer zone and the Border Corridor transform zone from ca. 30 Ma onward. K-Ar ages were determined for basalt (24.73 ± 1.96 Ma) and trachyte (25.42 ± 0.64 Ma) emplaced within the Tascotal Mesa transfer zone. Magmatism is bimodal; olivine basalt and/or hawaiite predominates. Basalts at the junctions of rift grabens and the Border Corridor transform zone entrain mantle and lower-crustal xenoliths.

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GSA Special Papers

New Perspectives on Rio Grande Rift Basins: From Tectonics to Groundwater

Mark R. Hudson
Mark R. Hudson
U.S. Geological Survey, Box 25046, Federal Center, MS 980, Denver, Colorado 80225-0046 USA
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V.J.S. (Tien) Grauch
V.J.S. (Tien) Grauch
U.S. Geological Survey, Box 25046, Federal Center, MS 964, Denver, Colorado 80225-0046 USA
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Geological Society of America
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Publication date:
April 01, 2013



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