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The Wallowa terrane is one of five pre-Cenozoic terranes in the Blue Mountains province of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. The other four terranes are Baker, Grindstone, Olds Ferry, and Izee. The Wallowa terrane includes plutonic, volcanic, and sedimentary rocks that are as old as Middle Permian and as young as late Early Cretaceous. They evolved during six distinct time segments or phases: (1) a Middle Permian to Early Triassic(?) island-arc phase; (2) a second island-arc phase of Middle and Late Triassic age; (3) a Late Triassic and Early Jurassic phase of carbonate platform growth, subsidence, and siliciclastic sediment deposition; (4) an Early Jurassic subaerial volcanic and sedimentary phase; (5) a Late Jurassic sedimentary phase that formed a thin subaerial and thick marine overlap sequence; and (6) a Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous phase of plutonism.

Rocks in the Wallowa terrane are separated into formally named units. The Permian and Triassic Seven Devils Group encompasses the Middle and Late(?) Permian Windy Ridge and Hunsaker Creek Formations and the Middle and Late Triassic Wild Sheep Creek and Doyle Creek Formations. Some Permian and Triassic plutonic rocks, which crystallized beneath the partly contemporaneous volcanic and sedimentary rocks of the Seven Devils Group, represent magma chambers that fed the volcanic rocks. The Permian and Triassic plutonic rocks form the Cougar Creek and Oxbow “basement complexes,” the Triassic Imnaha plutons, and the more isolated Permian and Triassic plutons, such as those in the Sheep Creek to Marks Creek chain and in the southern Seven Devils Mountains near Cuprum, Idaho.

The Seven Devils Group, and its associated plutons, are capped by the Martin Bridge Formation, a Late Triassic platform and reef carbonate unit, with associated shelf and upper-slope facies, and overlying and partly contemporaneous siliciclastic, limestone, and calcareous phyllitic rocks of the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic Hurwal Formation. Younger rocks are a subaerial Early Jurassic volcanic and sedimentary rock unit of the informally named Hammer Creek assemblage, and a Late Jurassic overlap sedimentary unit, the Coon Hollow Formation. Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous plutons intrude the older rocks. Lava flows of the Miocene Columbia River Basalt Group overlie the pre-Cenozoic rocks. Late Pleistocene and Holocene sedimentation left discontinuous deposits throughout the canyon. Most impressive are deposits left by the Bonneville flood.

The latest interpretations for the origin of terranes in the Blue Mountains province show that the Wallowa terrane is the only terrane that, during its Permian and Triassic evolution, had an intra-oceanic (not close to a continental landmass) island-arc origin.

On this field trip, we travel through the northern segment of the Wallowa terrane in Hells Canyon of the Snake River, where representative rocks and structures of the Wallowa terrane are well exposed. Thick sections of lava flows of the Columbia River Basalt Group cap the older rocks, and reach river levels in two places.

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