Abstract

A four-dimensional model for the evolution of the late-Paleoproterozoic Cheyenne belt arc-continent suture is presented based on available geologic mapping, structural analysis, geophysical constraints, geobarometry, geochronology, and isotopic data. All of the data are consistent with a southeast-dipping suture and deformation that lasted from 1.78 Ga to at least 1.76 Ga, and possibly as late as 1.74 Ga. Archean crustal components and/or detritus were subducted at least 30 to 70 km south of the trace of the suture. There is considerable variation in crustal structure and tectonic evolution along strike of the Cheyenne belt. Thick-skinned, intracratonic uplift along the Laramie Peak shear zone and synorogenic emplacement of the Horse Creek anorthosite complex occurred in the east, whereas low-grade metamorphism and late cataclastic thrust faulting occurred in the west. Some of this lateral variation may reflect the influence of preexisting crustal features such as high-angle normal faults and crustal heterogeneities related to ca. 2.0-Ga rifting, whereas other differences may reflect variations in collision geometry. The lithospheric architecture of this arc-continent suture created compositional and structural anisotropies that influenced later deformation and magmatism, such as the generation and emplacement of the 1.43-Ga Laramie anorthosite complex and location of Paleozoic diamond-bearing diatremes.

In this paper, the term “Medicine Bow orogeny” is proposed to describe the ca. 1.78-Ga arc-continent collision that formed the Cheyenne belt suture, and the subsequent structural evolution of the orogenic zone, which may have continued to ca. 1.74 Ga. The orogenic belt trends from southeastern Wyoming to northeastern Nevada, a distance of ∼1900 km. This term is invoked to differentiate the tectonic history along the Cheyenne belt from both the Yavapai orogeny to the south, and Central Plains orogeny to the east, because these orogenies include younger rocks and younger deformation. The arc terrane involved in the Medicine Bow orogeny is probably 50 to 100 km wide, and it makes up the basement of northern Colorado and continues at least as far south as the Soda Creek-Fish Creek shear zone in north-central Colorado. Accretion during the Medicine Bow orogeny represents a substantial addition to the North American continent.

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