Abstract

The disputed age of the deep crust of the Colorado Province is central to hypotheses for Paleoproterozoic crustal growth in the region. We studied the high-grade Big Creek Gneiss, southeastern Wyoming, as a potential exposure of pre-1780 Ma basement rocks. New geologic mapping and U-Pb geochronological data indicate that the Big Creek Gneiss exposes a deeper, but coeval, level of the Green Mountain arc relative to the predominantly supracrustal section to the west. The Big Creek Gneiss is composed of: supracrustal rocks; a ca. 1780 Ma Green Mountain arc–correlative, bimodal intrusive suite; a ca. 1763 Ma extensional(?) bimodal intrusive suite; and widespread ca. 1630 Ma pegmatitic leucogranite. The mafic member of the younger bimodal suite is documented here for the first time. U-Pb zircon ages from migmatite leucosomes indicate penetrative deformation of the Big Creek Gneiss at ca. 1750 Ma.

We find that the postarc intrusive suite is mantle-involved, implying a second period of crustal growth. Shortening postdates arc magmatism by ∼20 m.y., implying that termination of arc magmatism and accretion were separate events. Finally, criteria previously used to constrain the polarity of subduction for the Green Mountain arc are not reliable. We propose two competing models: (1) southward-dipping Green Mountain arc subduction (present coordinates), with slab breakoff–related magmatism following arc accretion; or (2) northward-dipping subduction, with extensional postarc magmatism. In both models, high-temperature deformation coincides with accretion along the Cheyenne belt, and extensional magmatism is an important component of crustal growth. We prefer the northward-dipping subduction model because it can be better integrated with regional tectonic events and published isotopic compositions of the igneous rocks.

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