Abstract

The present geodynamic pattern of the Canadian Cordillera, the main features of which were probably established in Miocene time, involves a combination of right-hand strike-slip movements on transform faults along the continental margin, and, in the south and extreme north, convergence in subduction zones in which oceanic lithosphere moves beneath the continent, with consequent magmatism along the continental margin. In the southern Canadian Cordillera, geophysical surveys have outlined the subducting slab and the asthenospheric bulge that occurs beneath and behind the magmatic arc. They also show that there is now no root of thickened Precambrian continental crust beneath the tectonically shortened supracrustal strata in the southern parts of the Omineca Crystalline Belt and Rocky Mountain Belt.The Rocky Mountain, Omineca Crystalline, Intermontane, Coast Plutonic, and Insular Belts, the structural and physiographic provinces that dominate the present configuration of the Canadian Cordillera, were established with the initial uplift and the intrusion of granitic rocks in the Omineca Crystalline Belt in Middle and Late Jurassic time and in the Coast Plutonic Complex in Early Cretaceous time, and they dominated patterns of uplift, erosion and deposition through Cretaceous and Paleogene time. Their development may be due to compression with thrust faulting in the eastern Cordillera, and to magmatism that accompanied subduction and to accretion of an exotic terrane, Wrangellia, in the western Cordillera. Major right-lateral strike-slip faulting, which occurred well east of but sub-parallel with the continental margin during Late Cretaceous and Paleogene time, accompanied major tectonic shortening due to thrusting and folding in the Rocky Mountain Belt as well as the main subduction-related (?) magmatism in the Coast Plutonic Complex.The configuration of the western Cordillera prior to late Middle Jurassic time is enigmatic. Late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic volcanogenic strata form a complex collage of volcanic arcs and subduction complexes that was assembled mainly in the Mesozoic. The change in locus of deposition between Upper Triassic and Lower to Middle Jurassic volcanogenic assemblages, and the thrust faulting in the northern Cordillera may record emplacement of another exotic terrane, the Stikine block, in latest Triassic to Middle Jurassic time.The earliest stage in the evolution of the Cordilleran fold belt involved the protracted (1500 to 380 Ma) development of a northeasterly tapering sedimentary wedge that discordantly overlaps Precambrian structures of the cratonic basement. This miogeoclinal wedge may be a continental margin terrace wedge that was prograded into an ocean basin, but it has features that may be more indicative of progradation into a marginal basin in which there was intermittent volcanic activity, than into a stable expanding ocean basin of the Atlantic type.

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