Silicic caldera volcanoes are often associated with hydrothermal systems economically important for electricity generation and localization of ore deposits. Despite their potential importance, the poor exposure that is typical in caldera settings has limited the number of detailed studies of the relationship between caldera structures and fluid flow. We use field mapping, outcrop scale scanline transects, and petrographic analyses to characterize fault rocks, alteration, and veins in the well-exposed 22.9 Ma Lake City caldera fossil hydrothermal system. The caldera margin consists of relatively straight segments linked by more structurally complex intersections; these structural intricacies produce a zone of deformation that can reach >300 m wide. Structural analyses show that the wide (up to ∼60 m) fault core of the ring fault contains abundant subparallel veins, with orientations similar to that of the caldera margin. Smaller displacement faults inside the caldera generally have narrow (<1 m), hydrothermally cemented fault cores with more variably oriented veins in the surrounding damage zone. These findings at Lake City illustrate that fluid flow is controlled by lithology and the location and displacement of faults, e.g., ring fault versus intracaldera fault. Fault connectivity is another key control. We propose a conceptual model where fluid flow in caldera-hosted settings is influenced by: (1) the presence of favorable lithologies (proximity to magmatic intrusions and/or the presence of permeable lithologies), (2) a high density of faults and fractures, and (3) favorable orientations of faults and fractures that promote the formation of discontinuity intersections.

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