Abstract

Middle Eocene through Upper Miocene sedimentary and volcanic rocks of the Flint Creek basin in western Montana accumulated during a period of significant paleoclimatic change and extension across the northern Rocky Mountain Basin and Range province. Gravity modelling, borehole data, and geologic mapping from the Flint Creek basin indicate that subsidence was focused along an extensionally reactivated Sevier thrust fault, which accommodated up to 800 m of basin fill while relaying stress between the dextral transtensional Lewis and Clark lineament to the north and the Anaconda core complex to the south. Northwesterly paleocurrent indicators, foliated metamorphic lithics, 64 Ma (40Ar/39Ar) muscovite grains, and 76 Ma (U–Pb) zircons in a ca. 27 Ma arkosic sandstone are consistent with Oligocene exhumation and erosion of the Anaconda core complex. The core complex and volcanic and magmatic rocks in its hangingwall created an important drainage divide during the Paleogene shedding detritus to the NNW and ESE. Following a major period of Early Miocene tectonism and erosion, regional drainage networks were reorganized such that paleoflow in the Flint Creek basin flowed east into an internally drained saline lake system. Renewed tectonism during Middle to Late Miocene time reestablished a west-directed drainage that is recorded by fluvial strata within a Late Miocene paleovalley. These tectonic reorganizations and associated drainage divide explain observed discrepancies in provenance studies across the province. Regional correlation of unconformities and lithofacies mapping in the Flint Creek basin suggest that localized tectonism and relative base level fluctuations controlled lithostratigraphic architecture.

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