Recent detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology reveals an increasing proportion of Grenville-age (ca. 0.95–1.3 Ga) and ca. 300–480 Ma grains in late Paleozoic strata of the SW United States. These grain populations are interpreted to have been sourced from the Appalachian orogen, though the precise timing, transport mechanisms, and pathway(s) of sediment dispersal remain unclear. We combine 35,796 published detrital zircon U-Pb ages from Ordovician to Pennsylvanian strata of southern Canada, northern Mexico, and the U.S. with new data (1,628 ages) from Kansas, Missouri, Montana, and South Dakota. These data are integrated with sedimentary structural data and paleogeographic reconstructions to reveal temporal and spatial patterns of the sediment routing system at continent scale. In Ordovician time, North America was partitioned into western, central, and eastern domains in which strata were derived primarily from the Peace River Arch, the Superior Craton, and the Appalachians, respectively. Silurian–Devonian time saw limited integration of these domains, corresponding with the delivery of Appalachian-derived detritus to the Midcontinent via prograding deltas and westward-flowing rivers. Appalachian detritus flowed westward in Mississippian time, accumulating in the Appalachian foreland and continuing westward through Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona, and California along the continental shelf. Given that North America was at equatorial latitudes and was inundated by the Kaskaskia sea at this time, westward dispersal likely occurred by trade wind–driven longshore drift, waves, tides, and marine currents, with the possible added contribution of hurricanes. Modern analogs for the southern margin of North America during Mississippian time (e.g., the Great Barrier Reef and the east coast of South America) indicate that long-distance (>1000 km) shelf-parallel sediment transport is readily accomplished through fair-weather processes and extreme events. Finally, Appalachian-derived detritus became widespread throughout North America following regression of the Kaskaskia sea in Pennsylvanian time, likely via fluvial, deltaic, and aeolian processes.

Gold Open Access: This paper is published under the terms of the CC-BY-NC license.
This content is PDF only. Please click on the PDF icon to access.