Abstract

The Pequop Mountains–Wood Hills–East Humboldt Range region, northeast Nevada, exposes a nearly continuous cross section of Precambrian to Mesozoic strata representing middle to upper crustal levels of the Mesozoic hinterland of the Sevier orogen. These rocks preserve the transition from unmetamorphosed Mesozoic upper crust to partially melted middle crust. Integration of new structural, metamorphic, and U-Pb thermochronologic data from the Wood Hills and Pequop Mountains, coupled with a regional tectonic reconstruction, reveals substantial Cretaceous metamorphism, contraction, and extension in the Sevier hinterland in northeast Nevada. We report two phases of contraction not previously recognized that are accommodated by top-to-the-southeast thrust faults, the Windermere and Independence thrusts. Contraction was succeeded by two phases of extension along west-rooted normal faults, the Late Cretaceous Pequop fault and Tertiary Mary's River fault system.

The earliest phase of thrust faulting resulted in as much as 30 km of crustal thickening and an estimated minimum of 69 km of shortening along an inferred fault called the Windermere thrust. The timing of this thrusting event is bracketed between Late Jurassic (ca. 153 Ma) and Late Cretaceous (84 Ma). Relaxation of crustal isotherms following and perhaps during thrusting resulted in Barrovian-style metamorphism of footwall rocks, and partial melting of metapelite at deep levels. Peak metamorphism was attained ca. 84 Ma, and by this time hinterland crustal thickening had reached a maximum. During 84–75 Ma another minor pulse of shortening and thickening along the Independence thrust was followed by partial exhumation of the metamorphic rocks and as much as 10 km of crustal thinning along the Pequop fault. Thus the interval from 84 to 75 Ma in northeast Nevada marks a fundamental, and apparently permanent, change from horizontal contraction to extension in the upper to middle crust in the hinterland. Final exhumation of the metamorphic rocks was accomplished by the Tertiary Mary's River fault system.

Our data indicate that much of the metamorphism and some of the contraction in the Sevier hinterland in northeast Nevada, which was previously thought to be largely Late Jurassic, is actually Cretaceous in age. Furthermore, the data indicate that widespread metamorphism of the middle crust is a byproduct of tectonic burial, and that hinterland and foreland thrust faulting were coeval, suggesting that thrust faults in the Sevier orogen do not form a simple foreland younging sequence.

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