Abstract

The Eocene Chuckanut Formation of Washington's North Cascades comprises as much as 6000 m of alluvial strata and is one of the thickest nonmarine sequences in North America. It is exposed in several disconnected outcrop belts that are remnants of what was probably an extensive fluvial system in western Washington. In this study, seven stratigraphic members are defined in the main outcrop belt of the Chuckanut Formation near the town of Bellingham. Their ages, based on fission-track zircon dates, palynologic studies, and correlation by mapping, extend from the Early to the Late Eocene.Three types of fluvial systems contributed to the Chuckanut Formation and are distinguished on the basis of their lithology, sedimentology, and petrology. The first comprises fine-load meandering-river deposits of the Lower Eocene Bellingham Bay Member and the Middle Eocene Slide Member. Sandstones are arkosic and had their main source in rapidly uplifted, high-grade metamorphic terranes in eastern Washington. The second type comprises braided- and coarse-load meandering-river deposits of the Middle to Upper Eocene Padden Member. The Padden Member occurs only in the western part of the outcrop belt and was derived form the Coast Plutonic Complex of southern British Columbia to the north. Sandstones are arkosic but are richer in lithic fragments than sandstones of the underlying Bellingham Bay Member and interfingering Slide Member. The third fluvial-system type comprises conglomerate-rich braided-river and alluvial-fan deposits of the lower Middle Eocene Governors Point Member and the Middle to Upper (?) Eocene Maple Falls, Warnick, and Bald Mountain members. Sandstones from these units are both lithic and arkosic. These strata were locally derived from uplifts on the northern basin margin.The petrology of down-basin correlatives of the Chuckanut Formation on the northeast Olympic Peninsula is incompatible with derivation through the Chuckanut fluvial system. This petrologic contrast supports a model for large-scale Eocene dextral offsets in the continental margin of Washington.

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