Abstract

The Plush Ranch Formation (upper Oligocene and lower Miocene) consists of more than 1800 m of nonmarine sedimentary and volcanic rocks that record the history of an extensional basin referred to here as the Plush Ranch basin. Distinctive depositional facies, provenance, and sediment transport directions along each basin margin suggest an asymmetric basin shape that is consistent with a half-graben origin. The northern basin margin consists of sandstone-dominated alluvial-plain deposits (0.1-1.5 m thick, normally graded, lenticular sandstone beds). Small deltaic sequences 1-2 m thick were formed where these alluvial systems flowed southward into a lake. Lenses of massive, boulder-rich granitic breccia that represent rockslide deposits derived from a nearby northern granitic provenance interfinger with the alluvial-plain facies. In contrast to the northern margin, the southern basin margin is represented by coarse-grained fan-delta deposits. Matrix- and clast-supported lenticular conglomerate beds 0.2-5 m thick with interbedded trough-cross-bedded pebbly sandstone represent braided-stream and flood-flow and/or noncohesive debris-flow deposits of alluvial fans that drained a highland area to the south. The alluvial-fan deposits interfinger to the north with several types of subaqueous sediment-gravity-flow facies including turbidite sandstone beds and matrix-supported debris-flow conglomerate. Each of the basin-margin depositional systems grades basinward and to the east into lacustrine deposits that include organic-rich dark shale, evaporite, and limestone. The lacustrine deposits represent the central and eastern parts of the Plush Ranch basin, which received little coarse siliciclastic sediment. Basalt deposits that are at least 50 m thick in the west and thicken eastward are interbedded mainly with the lacustrine facies. The southern margin of the Plush Ranch basin formed along a north-dipping, normal-slip fault along which dip separation increased toward the southwest; the northern margin developed on the tilted hanging-wall block of this fault. This fault was later reactivated in post-middle Miocene time as the present left-lateral strike-slip Big Pine fault. The Plush Ranch is one of several extensional and transtensional basins that formed in southern California and western Arizona about 25-20 Ma as a response to the change from a convergent to a strikeslip tectonic regime along western North America.

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