Abstract

Uppermost Proterozoic to Lower Devonian rocks in the Cordillera of western Canada accumulated within two ancestral continental margin systems--the Canadian Cordilleran and southwestern Franklinian miogeoclines. These miogeoclines are separated by the Ogilvie Arch. Prominent features of the southwestern Franklinian Miogeocline are the Richardson Trough, a failed arm or aulacogen opening northward into the outer Franklinian Miogeocline, and, west and east of it, the Porcupine and Lac des Bois platforms. The Canadian Cordilleran Miogeocline formed in Late Proterozoic as the result of rifting, and although the newly formed margin was Atlantic-type, it continued to have distinct periods of rifting and extension with volcanism, throughout its history. The Canadian Cordilleran Miogeocline is divided by numerous northeast-trending linear features interpreted to reflect the position of ancestral strike-slip or transfer faults. More than six major block segments are recognized. From south to north they are: the Montana Block, bordered north by the Moyie-Dibble Creek fault systems; the Alberta Block, bordered north by the Hay River and Great Slave Lake fault systems, and divided into the Peace and Southern Prairies sub-blocks along the Rimbey Magnetic-Snowbird Tectonic zones; the Macdonald Block bordered north by the Liard Line; the Blackwater Block, bordered north by the Fort Norman Line; and the Mackenzie Block, bordered north by the southwestern Franklinian Miogeocline. Many facies changes occur across these blocks and their bounding ancestral transfer or strike-slip fault zones, and these or associated faults are likely keys to independent tectonic histories, such as that demonstrated by the Peace River Arch. The most prominent and well known northeast-trending lineament is the Liard Line. Apparent on geological maps of Canada, or the Canadian Cordillera, is a northeastward swing of structural trends north of this feature. The Canadian Cordilleran Miogeocline to the north shows extensive preservation of lower Paleozoic (to Lower Devonian) strata northeastward to the Canadian Shield, whereas to the south the same rocks are generally preserved in only the Cordilleran deformed belt. Although Lower Paleozoic rocks in the south have been substantially cut by younger erosional events, facies and thickness patterns, in fringing Lower Paleozoic strata, indicate that the pattern of erosion and nondeposition is as much due to Lower Paleozoic tectonics and paleogeography as it is due to younger exposure or erosion. This profound change, and the connection to the Franklinian, divides the Canadian Cordilleran Miogeocline into three fundamental parts. The Liard Line is interpreted to have been an ancient transfer fault zone across which there was a reversal in the direction of asymmetry within the master separation fault system that formed the ancestral continental margin in Late Proterozoic time. The wide area north of the Liard line has a large outer miogeoclinal basin (Selwyn Basin), discrete rift systems (Misty Creek Embayment, Mackenzie Trough, Root Basin), a peculiar zone of high crustal attenuation and sediment accumulation (Liard Depression). In addition, it is complicated by several different arches or highs (Mackenzie, Redstone, McConnell, Keele, Bulmer Lake, Niddery, etc.). This northern half of the Canadian Cordilleran Miogeocline has the characteristics of a lower plate margin and is here defined as the Northern Cordilleran Lower Plate Zone, comprising the Blackwater and Mackenzie blocks. The Canadian Cordilleran Miogeocline south of the Liard Line is narrowly preserved in the Cordillera and consists of the White River, Robson and Kechika troughs, and their marginal Macdonald and Bow platforms. The eastern miogeocline is dominated by Lower Paleozoic paleotopographic highs (Montania, West Alberta Ridge, Peace River Arch and Macdonald High). This southern zone has the characteristics of an upper plate margin and is here defined as the Southern Cordilleran Upper Plate Zone, comprising the Montana, Alberta and Macdonald blocks. A previous upper-lower plate model of the Canadian Cordilleran Miogeocline is reviewed and its criteria of width, structural complexity and uplift-subsidence are found to be useful as plate-type indicators. However, the use of gneisses to indicate lower crust, transitional gradients base on isopleths, and Cambrian zero edges are found to be equivocal. The Canadian Cordilleran Miogeocline non passive character is compared to that of Mesozoic-Tertiary continental margins, which are also fundamentally non passive, suggesting that models for plate tectonic drifting phases need to be revised.

You do not currently have access to this article.