The Middle to Late Miocene Bodie Hills volcanic field is a >700 km2, long-lived (∼9 Ma) but episodic eruptive center in the southern segment of the ancestral Cascades arc north of Mono Lake (California, U.S.). It consists of ∼20 major eruptive units, including 4 trachyandesite stratovolcanoes emplaced along the margins of the field, and numerous, more centrally located silicic trachyandesite to rhyolite flow dome complexes. Bodie Hills volcanism was episodic with two peak periods of eruptive activity: an early period ca. 14.7–12.9 Ma that mostly formed trachyandesite stratovolcanoes and a later period between ca. 9.2 and 8.0 Ma dominated by large trachyandesite-dacite dome fields. A final period of small silicic dome emplacement occurred ca. 6 Ma. Aeromagnetic and gravity data suggest that many of the Miocene volcanoes have shallow plutonic roots that extend to depths ≥1–2 km below the surface, and much of the Bodie Hills may be underlain by low-density plutons presumably related to Miocene volcanism.
Compositions of Bodie Hills volcanic rocks vary from ∼50 to 78 wt% SiO2, although rocks with <55 wt% SiO2 are rare. They form a high-K calc-alkaline series with pronounced negative Ti-P-Nb-Ta anomalies and high Ba/Nb, Ba/Ta, and La/Nb typical of subduction-related continental margin arcs. Most Bodie Hills rocks are porphyritic, commonly containing 15–35 vol% phenocrysts of plagioclase, pyroxene, and hornblende ± biotite. The oldest eruptive units have the most mafic compositions, but volcanic rocks oscillated between mafic and intermediate to felsic compositions through time. Following a 2 Ma hiatus in volcanism, postsubduction rocks of the ca. 3.6–0.1 Ma, bimodal, high-K Aurora volcanic field erupted unconformably onto rocks of the Miocene Bodie Hills volcanic field.
At the latitude of the Bodie Hills, subduction of the Farallon plate is inferred to have ended ca. 10 Ma, evolving to a transform plate margin. However, volcanism in the region continued until 8 Ma without an apparent change in rock composition or style of eruption. Equidimensional, polygenetic volcanoes and the absence of dike swarms suggest a low differential horizontal stress regime throughout the lifespan of the Bodie Hills volcanic field. However, kinematic data for veins and faults in mining districts suggest a change in the stress field from transtensional to extensional approximately coincident with the inferred cessation of subduction.
Numerous hydrothermal systems were operative in the Bodie Hills during the Miocene. Several large systems caused alteration of volcaniclastic rocks in areas as large as 30 km2, but these altered rocks are mostly devoid of economic mineral concentrations. More structurally focused hydrothermal systems formed large epithermal Au-Ag vein deposits in the Bodie and Aurora mining districts. Economically important hydrothermal systems are temporally related to intermediate to silicic composition domes.
Rock types, major and trace element compositions, petrographic characteristics, and volcanic features of the Bodie Hills volcanic field are similar to those of other large Miocene volcanic fields in the southern segment of the ancestral Cascade arc. Relative to other parts of the ancestral arc, especially north of Lake Tahoe in northeastern California, the scarcity of mafic rocks, relatively K-rich calc-alkaline compositions, and abundance of composite dome fields in the Bodie Hills may reflect thicker crust beneath the southern ancestral arc segment. Thicker crust may have inhibited direct ascent and eruption of mafic, mantle-derived magma, instead stalling its ascent in the lower or middle crust, thereby promoting differentiation to silicic compositions and development of porphyritic textures characteristic of the southern ancestral arc segment.