The authors analyzed detrital zircon grains from 10 metasedimentary rock samples of the Priest River complex and three other amphibolite-facies metamorphic sequences in north-central Idaho to test the previous assignment of these rocks to the Mesoproterozoic Belt–Purcell Supergroup. Zircon grains from two samples of the Prichard Formation (lower Belt) and one sample of Cambrian quartzite were also analyzed as controls with known depositional ages. U–Pb zircon analysis by laser ablation — inductively coupled plasma — mass spectrometry reveals that 6 of the 10 samples contain multiple age populations between 1900 and 1400 Ma and a scatter of older ages, similar to results reported from the Belt–Purcell Supergroup to the north and east. Results from the Priest River metamorphic complex confirm previous correlations with the Prichard Formation. Samples from the Golden and Elk City sequences have significant numbers of 1500–1380 Ma grains, which indicates that they do not predate the Belt. Rather, they are probably from a relatively young, southwestern part of the Belt Supergroup (Lemhi subbasin). Non-North American (1610–1490 Ma) grains are rare in these rocks. Three samples of quartzite from the Syringa metamorphic sequence northwest of the Idaho batholith contain zircon grains younger than the Belt Supergroup and support a Neoproterozoic age. A single Cambrian sample has abundant 1780 Ma grains and none younger than ∼1750 Ma. These results indicate that the likely protoliths of many high-grade metamorphic rocks in northern Idaho were strata of the Belt–Purcell Supergroup or overlying rocks of the Neoproterozoic Windermere Supergroup and not basement rocks.

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