A compilation of U-Pb zircon dates for lower Proterozoic rocks in central Arizona shows that, although rocks tend to be older in the northwest (1800−1696 m.y.) than the southeast (1738−1630 m.y.), there is no single boundary separating distinct geochronologic provinces in Arizona. Instead, the distribution of isotopic ages reflects the presence of two major tectonic provinces separated by a regionally subhorizontal boundary or boundaries. The northwestern part of central Arizona contains the Yavapai Series (1800−1755 m.y.) and calc-alkaline batholiths (1750−1696 m.y.), both believed to represent oceanic island-arc materials. The southeastern part of central Arizona is dominated by the Alder, Red Rock, and Mazatzal Groups and related hypabyssal intrusions (1710−1692 m.y.), with voluminous rhyolitic ash-flow tuffs and quartz arenite believed to record a relatively stable continental tectonic setting.
Two working hypotheses emerge to explain the juxtaposition of representatives of these two tectonic provinces over a 100-km-wide zone in central Arizona. One interpretation (model 1) suggests that rocks of the southeast province were deposited with angular unconformity on newly accreted continental crust composed of northwest province rocks. A second interpretation (model 2) suggests that the two areas represent allochthonous terranes that evolved separately and were juxtaposed by large subhorizontal movements on thrusts and strike-slip faults. An important new constraint is that the 1699-m.y.-old strongly peraluminous Crazy Basin Quartz Monzonite was emplaced in the northwest province during ductile deformation at depths greater than 8 km at the same time that rhyolitic ash-flow tuffs and quartz arenite were being deposited in the southeast province. For model 1, this implies a rapid change of tectonic regimes about 1700 Ma, from convergence to uplift, erosion, sedimentation, and possibly extension. For model 2, the differences in crustal level, structural style, and petrologic affinity between ∼1700-m.y.-old rocks in both provinces are believed to result from juxtaposition of different crustal blocks after 1700 Ma.