Abstract

Onset and termination of Eocene felsic volcanism in the Chilcotin Plateau of central British Columbia is constrained between 54.6 and 46.6 Ma by 33 new U–Pb and 40Ar/39Ar isotopic age determinations. Dates were obtained from representative felsic coherent and fragmental volcanic rocks that comprise the Ootsa Lake Group. The resulting chronostratigraphy shows that magma compositions evolved from felsic to intermediate, with no spatial migration of the volcanic activity. Rhyolitic compositions are oldest; and are overlain by dacitic rocks with varied phenocrysts assemblages. In many parts of the Chilcotin Plateau, the Eocene stratigraphy is capped by distinctive vitreous black dacite lavas, which are contemporaneous with andesitic lavas of the Endako Group in the Nechako Plateau to the north. Crystallization ages from Ootsa Lake Group rocks of the Chilcotin Plateau overlap age determinations from correlative rocks of the Nechako Plateau and southern BC. Collectively, this geochronological dataset supports previous suggestions of a voluminous Early Eocene-aged (∼55–46 Ma) period of volcanism in the Intermontane Belt. The abrupt initiation of volcanism, as well as the wide extent, thickness, and compositions that characterize Eocene volcanic rocks may be explained by cessation of subduction and formation of a slab gap beneath British Columbia in the Early Eocene.

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