Abstract

The White Mountains represent the westernmost range of the central northern Basin and Range province. They are situated to the east of the unextended Sierra Nevada and represent a crustal block that is bounded along its western flank by the high-angle White Mountains fault zone. The fault zone accommodates up to ∼8 km of total dip-slip displacement. Investigation of the structural and thermal history of the White Mountains indicates a two-stage Cenozoic tectonic evolution. Preextensional Miocene volcanic rocks preserved along the eastern side of the range unconformably overlie Mesozoic granitic basement and currently dip up to 25° to the east, recording the total Cenozoic tilt of the crustal block. Apatite fission-track and (U-Th/He) thermochronological data indicate that the White Mountains underwent rapid exhumation and eastward tilting in the middle Miocene, starting at ca. 12 Ma. Geologic mapping (1:10,000), fault kinematic analysis, and dating of younger volcanic sequences show that following middle Miocene east-west extension, the White Mountains have been dominated by right-lateral transtensional deformation related to the Walker Lane belt. The eruption of late Miocene and Pliocene volcanic sequences in the eastern White Mountains postdates the majority of the uplift of the range, as evidenced by infilling of paleodrainages and the presence of east-directed flow fabrics. Fault kinematic indicators from the White Mountains fault zone are characterized by apparent overprinting of dip-slip fault-motion indicators by right-lateral slickenfibers and fault striations, demonstrating that the range-bounding fault system along the western side of the White Mountains was reactivated as a dextral strike-slip fault system. At the northern and southern ends of the range, Pliocene right-lateral transtension along this northwest–southeast-trending fault systems resulted in the formation of northeast-trending pull-apart basins that truncate the mountain range and transfer strike-slip displacement eastward from the Owens Valley fault zone to the Fish Lake Valley fault zone. The inception of strike-slip faulting in Fish Lake Valley occurred at ca. 6 Ma as constrained by late Miocene volcanic units. Right-lateral faulting on the western side of the White Mountains occurred at ca. 3 Ma and is distinctly younger than the faulting in the Fish Lake Valley area, indicating a westward migration of transcurrent deformation through time.

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