We performed apatite and zircon (U-Th)/He dating on a granitic pluton that has been offset by ∼10 km by motion on the sinistral strike-slip Xiangcheng fault in SW Sichuan, SE Tibetan plateau, where the Shuoqu River incises a deep valley before joining the upper Yangtze River. Mean ZHe cooling ages range from 49.5 ± 2.2 Ma to 68.6 ± 6.0 Ma. Samples located above 3870 m yield mean apatite (U-Th)/He ages ranging from 30.6 ± 1.4 Ma to 40.6 ± 2.7 Ma, whereas samples at lower elevations range from 9.8 ± 1.3 Ma to 14.6 ± 2.7 Ma. In the same region, Cenozoic continental sediments are exposed on the flanks of deep valleys. They consist of unsorted conglomerates and sandstones that partly fill a paleotopography. The sediments were deposited during an episode of rapid sedimentation, followed by incision that varies between 0.5 and 1.2 km. Thermal and exhumational modeling of the granite thermochronometric data indicates rapid cooling during the middle Miocene that was likely related to fluvial incision. Our findings suggest that the upper Yangtze River and its tributary (Shuoqu) were connected by the middle Miocene. Our modeling also supports the idea that the exhumation pattern during the Cenozoic in the southeastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau is spatially and temporally heterogeneous.

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.