Abstract

Apatite fission-track data from 16 sedimentary and crystalline rock samples indicate rapid regional Early Eocene denudation within the onshore Beaufort–Mackenzie region of northwestern Canada. Rocks exposed in the area of the Big Fish River, Northwest Territories, cooled rapidly from paleotemperatures of >80–110 °C to <6 0°C at ca. 56 ± 2 Ma, probably in response to kilometre-scale denudation associated with regional structuring. The data suggest the region experienced a geothermal gradient of ~28 °C/km prior to rapid cooling, with ~2.7 km of section having been removed from the top of the exposed section in the Moose Channel Formation and ~3.8 km from the top of the exposed Cuesta Creek Member. Farther to the west, rocks exposed in the headwaters of the Blow River in the Barn Mountains, Yukon Territories, were exposed to paleotemperatures above 110 °C in the Late Paleocene prior to rapid cooling from these elevated paleotemperatures due to kilometre-scale denudation at ca. 56 ± 2 Ma. Exposure of these samples at the surface today requires that a minimum of ~3.8 km of denudation occurred since they began cooling below ~110 °C. The apatite analyses indicate that rocks exposed in the northern Yukon and Northwest Territories experienced rapid cooling during the Early Eocene in response to kilometre-scale denudation, associated with early Tertiary folding and thrusting in the northern Cordillera. Early Eocene cooling–uplift ages for onshore sections are slightly older than the Middle Eocene ages previously documented for the adjacent offshore foldbelt and suggest that the deformation progressed toward the foreland of the foldbelt through time.

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