Abstract

The Bighorn Mountains of the central Wyoming Province expose a large tract of Archean crust that has been tectonically inactive and at relatively high crustal levels since ∼2.7 Ga. Seven sensitive high-resolution ion microprobe (SHRIMP) U–Pb zircon and titanite age determinations on samples of the main lithologic units provide a geochronological framework for the evolution of this area. The oldest, precisely dated magmatic event occurred at 2950 ± 5 Ma, when diorite to granite dykes and sills intruded an older gneiss complex exposed in the central and southern Bighorn Mountains. Rocks as old as 3.25 Ga may be present in this gneissic basement, as indicated by the oldest dates obtained on areas of zircon grains that are interpreted as inherited cores. A tonalitic gneiss was intruded into the gneiss complex at 2886 ± 5 Ma. Deformation of the central and southern gneisses preceded the intrusion of the Bighorn batholith, a tonalitic to granitic intrusion that occupies the northern portion of the uplift. This composite batholith was intruded over the period 2.86–2.84 Ga. Ca. 3.0–2.8 Ga crust is also present in the Beartooth Mountains, the Washakie block of the northeastern Wind River Range, the Owl Creek Mountains, and the northern Granite Mountains, but late Archean deformation and plutonism has obscured much of the earlier history in the southern portion of this area. The entire area, referred to as the Beartooth–Bighorn Magmatic Zone, has been undeformed since 2.6 Ga. Proterozoic extension was focused in those parts of the Wyoming Province outside of this domain.

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