Abstract

An ∼3.1-km-thick volcanic complex exposed in the southern Inyo Mountains, east-central California, records Jurassic subaerial depositional environments along the east flank of the Sierran arc. This complex, which we name the Inyo Mountains Volcanic Complex, is subdivided into lower, middle, and upper stratigraphic intervals. The 200–580-m-thick lower interval comprises predominantly epiclastic strata deposited on alluvial fans and adjacent river flood plains that were inclined northeast. Mafic lava flows and rare reworked tuff in this interval record the onset of Jurassic(?) volcanism in this part of the arc. The 300–700-m-thick middle interval is composed predominantly of intermediate to silicic lava flows and tuffs representing a major episode of volcanism ending at ca. 169 Ma that is contemporaneous with emplacement of numerous plutons in the region. The >2260-m-thick upper interval is composed of epiclastic strata with minor intercalations of volcanic rock. Most of this interval accumulated on low-gradient flood plains that hosted evaporative lakes and that were episodically invaded by alluvial fan complexes. Three new U-Pb age determinations constrain the lower half of the upper interval to have been deposited during the interval from ca. 169 Ma to 150 Ma. The uppermost part of the complex remains undated but probably accumulated prior to 140 Ma.

The Inyo Mountains Volcanic Complex is part of a belt of volcanic complexes that are the easternmost preserved Jurassic complexes of the Sierran arc. These complexes share sufficient similarities to suggest that they represent a distinctive arc-flank depositional province significantly different from that represented by coeval volcanic complexes preserved in roof pendants farther west, closer to the magmatic axis of the arc. Similarities among arc-flank complexes include predominantly to exclusively subaerial settings, substantial (>30%) portions of epiclastic strata, and existence at times of north- to northeast-inclined paleoslopes. We infer on the basis of the varying types and amounts of volcanic rocks that whereas most complexes in the arc-flank province were rarely if ever proximal to major eruptive centers, complexes in two areas (White Mountains and eastern Mojave Desert) were at times located in or adjacent to such centers. These differences lead us to speculate that the east flank of the Jurassic arc consisted of eastward-projecting volcanic salients separated by arc recesses—typified by the Inyo Mountains area—in which epiclastic deposition was dominant.

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