Abstract

The northern Owyhee Mountains of southwestern Idaho contain granitoid rocks that are the same age as the Cretaceous western border zone of the Idaho batholith to the north of the Snake River Plain. They contain a well-developed and consistently oriented 020° foliation, zircon yielding U-Pb dates of ca. 160–48 Ma, and initial 87Sr/86Sr isotopic compositions that show a steep west-to-east transition in values from 0.704 to 0.708 over a distance of ∼30 km. The rocks of the northern Owyhee Mountains are interpreted to be the southward continuation (Owyhee segment) of the western Idaho shear zone. Similar to a well-studied section of the western Idaho shear zone by McCall (McCall segment), the Owyhee segment displays steep foliation and lineation orientations, deformation of 98–90 Ma plutons, steep Sr isotopic gradients, and syntectonic tonalite intrusions. However, the Owyhee segment has three major differences from the McCall segment: (1) significantly less well-developed solid-state strain fabric foliations; (2) trend of 020° rather than 000°; and (3) a wider transition zone in initial Sr ratios from 0.704 to 0.708. We present a simple tectonic model to explain these differences, assuming a 20° along-zone difference in the initial orientation of the western margin of the Laurentia, a rigid-body collision, homogeneous material behavior, and transpressional kinematics. For the Owyhee segment, the model predicts a lower oblique-convergence angle, less convergent displacement, more dextral transcurrent displacement, and an overall lower finite strain relative to the McCall segment.

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