Large Meteorite Impacts and Planetary Evolution
Allochthonous impact-shocked rocks and superimposed deformations at the Beaverhead site in southwest Montana
Published:January 01, 1992
R. B. Hargraves, K. S. Kellogg, P. S. Fiske, S. B. Hougen, 1992. "Allochthonous impact-shocked rocks and superimposed deformations at the Beaverhead site in southwest Montana", Large Meteorite Impacts and Planetary Evolution, B. O. Dressier, R.A.F. Grieve, V. L. Sharpton
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Upward-pointing shatter cones in sandstones of uncertain age (Middle Proterozoic? to Lower Cambrian?) and older crystalline basement rocks are exposed over an area of approximately 25 × 8 km in southwestern Montana. These shatter cones, together with pseudotachylites and breccias of various types (particularly in basement gneisses), are inferred to be products of a meteorite or cometary impact. However, Late Cretaceous contraction and Tertiary extension have contributed to the structural complexity of the area, and distinguishing unequivocally the shock brecciation from that due to younger tectonism is difficult. Stratigraphic constraints suggest the structure is Late Proterozoic or Cambrian in age.
The shocked rocks are present in the Cabin thrust plate—one of many in the Late Cretaceous Cordilleran Thrust belt—and hence are allochthonous, having been transported tens of kilometers from the west. They are considered to represent only a piece from the central uplift of an original complex crater at least 75 km in diameter. It is speculated that some of the considerable uplift and erosion inferred to have taken place in Late Proterozoic to early Paleozoic time in east-central Idaho (The Lemhi arch) may be related to the postulated impact event. Furthermore, quasi-circular magnetic and regional gravity anomalies (50 to 75 km diameter) centered south-southeast of Challis, Idaho, may mark the concealed scar of the original impact structure.