The Laramide orogeny is a classic yet controversial mountain-building event that resulted, in the southwest United States, in uplifts, sedimentation, and magmatism that can be used to constrain the onset of this event in the region and expand our knowledge of Late Cretaceous to Paleogene tectonism. The McRae Formation marks the onset of deposition in the Laramide Love Ranch Basin, which was located to the northeast of the west-northwest–trending coeval Rio Grande uplift in south-central New Mexico, but its age is not well constrained. A previously published late Maastrichtian age for the McRae Formation was based on the presence of dinosaur bones in the upper of two members of the formation. We obtained new U-Pb dates from one dacite clast and three ash-fall tuffs from the lower Jose Creek Member and from one ash-fall tuff from the lower part of the overlying Hall Lake Member of the McRae Formation. The clast yielded a date of 75.0 ± 1.1 Ma, whereas the ages of the tuffs, in ascending stratigraphic order, are 74.9 ± 0.7 Ma, 74.7 ± 0.6 Ma, 75.2 ± 1.3 Ma, and 73.2 ± 0.7 Ma. These dates indicate that the onset of Laramide deposition in the Love Ranch Basin must have occurred earlier, in late Campanian time, similar to deposition in the Laramide Ringbone Basin in southwestern New Mexico. In addition, U-Pb zircon dates of 75.7 ± 1.3 Ma and 75.0 ± 2.8 Ma were obtained on the Twin Peaks stock and on a dacite sill, respectively, in the Burro Mountains of southwestern New Mexico. These dates are similar to those of other Laramide arc magmatic centers in southern New Mexico, which have a limited range of ages from 75 to 70 Ma, including the Hidalgo Formation in the Little Hatchet Mountains, the Silver City–Pinos Altos region, and the Copper Flat porphyry system. These new and previously published dates indicate that during the onset of Laramide deformation in southwestern and south-central New Mexico, the angle of subduction of the Farallon plate may have been steep enough to allow partial melting of an asthenospheric wedge, resulting in arc magmatism far inboard of the trench.

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