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Abstract

Paleoproterozoic supracrustal rocks in the region near Big Thompson Canyon, northern Colorado, have long been recognized as a spectacularly exposed example of regionally zoned metamorphism, preserving an apparently complete sequence from biotite- to migmatite-zones. Due to its location and relatively easy access, the Big Thompson Metamorphic Suite has also provided a valuable field-based educational experience for universities and colleges all along the Front Range and from elsewhere. In addition to a number of other studies, the pioneering work of William Braddock and graduate students from the University of Colorado resulted in more than a dozen M.Sc. and Ph.D. theses from the 1960s to the 1990s. Despite the volume of ground-breaking science conducted on these rocks in the past, there remain a number of fundamental questions regarding the metamorphic history and overall tectonic significance of many of the observable features. Several lines of evidence suggest there is potential for a complex tectonometamorphic history that likely spans from ~1.8 to 1.4 Ga. These include: thermochronologic and geochronologic data supporting multiple thermal and magmatic episodes, structural evidence for multiple deformation events, multiple generations of typical Barrovian minerals (e.g., staurolite), and the widespread occurrence of minerals not commonly associated with a classic Barrovian sequence (e.g., andalusite, cordierite). One purpose of this fieldtrip is to foster new ideas and stimulate new research directions that will utilize the Big Thompson Metamorphic Suite, and the Colorado Rockies in general, as field laboratories for better understanding fundamental orogenic processes.

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