Abstract

Mesozoic orogeny and magmatism began in the northwestern United States soon after deposition of Permian strata, but no rocks have yet been dated from the Permian-Triassic orogenic period. Middle Triassic to Late Jurassic sediment sequences include major unconformities and evidence of several episodes of igneous activity. An early culmination of magmatism occurred in Late Triassic and Early Jurassic time (200–217 m.y. ago) in eugeosynclinal parts of far western Idaho. A widespread and intense culmination in Late Jurassic time was the final major orogenic event in the Oregon eugeosyncline. The Bald Mountain (147 to 158 m.y. old), Wallowa (probably 143 to 160 m.y. old but affected by Cretaceous metamorphism), Deep Creek (at least 137 m.y. old), and many other plutons in the Blue and Klamath Mountain regions in Oregon and in western Idaho were emplaced shortly before the end of Jurassic. The bulk of the Idaho batholith was emplaced during a Cretaceous culmination of igneous activity — the southern (Atlanta) lobe about 75 to 100 m.y. ago and the northern (Bitterroot) lobe about 70 to 80 m.y. ago. Much of the batholith was affected by Eocene magmatism which resulted in widespread resetting of isotopic dates for older rocks to values of 50 m.y. or less. Between 55 and 70 m.y. ago, there was a lull in igneous activity in the northwestern United States.

Sr isotope initial ratios change abruptly across a boundary in western Idaho from ∼0.7040 or less, to the west, to ∼0.7060 or greater, to the east. This change marks the boundary between Precambrian crust and Phanerozoic eugeosyncline. The geologic setting of the observed transition and its time independence suggest that it is due to contamination and assimilation processes involving magmas from the mantle and enclosing crustal rocks. Contamination of magmas with radiogenic Sr renders the Sr whole-rock isochron technique useless in dating the Idaho batholith and other intrusive rocks in central and eastern Idaho, areas underlain by Precambrian basement.

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