Age and tectonic setting of the Mesozoic McCoy Mountains Formation in western Arizona, USA

Jon E. Spencer, Stephen M. Richard, George E. Gehrels, James D. Gleason, William R. Dickinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The McCoy Mountains Formation consists of Upper Jurassic to Upper Cretaceous siltstone, sandstone, and conglomerate exposed in an east-west-trending belt in southwestern Arizona and southeastern California. At least three different tectonic settings have been proposed for McCoy deposition, and multiple tectonic settings are likely over the ~80 m.y. age range of deposition. U-Pb isotopic analysis of 396 zircon sand grains from at or near the top of McCoy sections in the southern Little Harquahala, Granite Wash, New Water, and southern Plomosa Mountains, all in western Arizona, identifi ed only Jurassic or older zircons. A basaltic lava fl ow near the top of the section in the New Water Mountains yielded a U-Pb zircon date of 154.4 ± 2.1 Ma. Geochemically similar lava fl ows and sills in the Granite Wash and southern Plomosa Mountains are inferred to be approximately the same age. We interpret these new analyses to indicate that Mesozoic clastic strata in these areas are Upper Jurassic and are broadly correlative with the lowermost McCoy Mountains Formation in the Dome Rock, McCoy, and Palen Mountains farther west. Six samples of numerous Upper Jurassic basaltic sills and lava fl ows in the McCoy Mountains Formation in the Granite Wash, New Water, and southern Plomosa Mountains yielded initial εNd values (at t = 150 Ma) of between +4 and +6. The geochemistry and geochronology of this igneous suite, and detrital-zircon geochronology of the sandstones, support the interpretation that the lower McCoy Mountains Formation was deposited during rifting within the western extension of the Sabinas-Chihuahua-Bisbee rift belt. Abundant 190-240 Ma zircon sand grains were derived from nearby, unidentifi ed Triassic magmatic-arc rocks in areas that were unaffected by younger Jurassic magmatism. A sandstone from the upper McCoy Mountains Formation in the Dome Rock Mountains (Arizona) yielded numerous 80-108 Ma zircon grains and almost no 190-240 Ma grains, revealing a major reorganization in sediment-dispersal pathways and/or modifi cation of source rocks that had occurred by ca. 80 Ma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1258-1274
Number of pages17
JournalBulletin of the Geological Society of America
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Jul 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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