Carboniferous sediment dispersal from the Appalachian orogenic system (eastern United States) has become a topic of widespread interest. However, the actual pathways for continental-scale, east-to-west sediment transfer have not been documented. This study presents detrital zircon (DZ) U-Pb ages and Hf isotopic values from the Lower Pennsylvanian (Morrowan) Jackfork Group and Johns Valley Shale of the synorogenic Ouachita deepwater basin of Arkansas to document provenance and delineate the likely sediment-routing systems within the broader context of sediment dispersal across Laurentia.
Twelve (12) DZ U-Pb age distributions are interpreted to indicate that sediments were derived from the Appalachians to the east and northeast, as well as the midcontinent region to the north. All samples display prominent ca. 500– 400 Ma, 1250–950 Ma, 1550–1300 Ma, and 1800–1600 Ma grains, consistent with ultimate derivation from the Appalachian, Grenville, Midcontinent, and Yavapai-Mazatzal provinces. DZ Hf values obtained from the Ouachita Basin are similar to published Hf values from Pennsylvanian samples in the Appalachian and Illinois Basins. Age distributions are generally consistent for seven samples collected from the Jackfork Group and Johns Valley Shale in the southern Ouachita Mountains through ~2400 m of stratigraphic section and are interpreted to indicate little change in provenance during the Morrowan in this part of the system. However, samples from the most northern and most source-proximal site in Little Rock, Arkansas, exhibit modest percentages of Appalachian ages and elevated contributions of Yavapai-Mazatzal ages when compared with samples collected farther to the south and west. We interpret differences between DZ signatures to indicate distinct sediment-routing pathways to the Ouachita Basin. We infer the strong Appalachian and Grenville signals to represent an axial system flowing through the Appalachian foredeep, whereas the more diverse signals represent a confluence of rivers from the northeast through the backbulge of southern Illinois and western Kentucky and from the north across the Arkoma shelf. Collectively, the Ouachita Basin represents a terminal sink for sediments derived from much of the eastern and central United States.