Pre-, syn-, and postcollisional stratigraphic framework and provenance of upper triassic-upper cretaceous strata in the northwestern talkeetna mountains, alaska

Brian A. Hampton, Kenneth D. Ridgway, J. Michael O'Neill, George E. Gehrels, Jeanine Schmidt, Robert B. Blodgett

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35 Scopus citations


Mesozoic strata of the northwestern Talkeetna Mountains are located in a regional suture zone between the allochthonous Wrangellia composite terrane and the former Mesozoic continental margin of North America (i.e., the Yukon-Tanana terrane). New geologic mapping, measured stratigraphic sections, and provenance data define a distinct three-part stratigraphy for these strata. The lowermost unit is greater than 290 m thick and consists of Upper Triassic-Lower Jurassic mafic lavas, fossiliferous limestone, and a volcaniclastic unit that collectively we informally refer to as the Honolulu Pass formation. The uppermost 75 m of the Honolulu Pass formation represent a condensed stratigraphic interval that records limited sedimentation over a period of up to ca. 25 m.y. during Early Jurassic time. The contact between the Honolulu Pass formation and the overlying Upper Jurassic-Lower Cretaceous clastic marine strata of the Kahiltna assemblage represents a ca. 20 m.y. depositional hiatus that spans the Middle Jurassic and part of Late Jurassic time. The Kahiltna assemblage may to be up to 3000 m thick and contains detrital zircons that have a robust U-Pb peak probability age of 119.2 Ma (i.e., minimum crystallization age/maximum depositional age). These data suggest that the upper age of the Kahiltna assemblage may be a minimum of 10-15 m.y. younger than the previously reported upper age of Valanginian. Sandstone composition (Q-43% F-30% L-27%-Lv-71% Lm-18% Ls-11%) and U-Pb detrital zircon ages suggest that the Kahiltna assemblage received igneous detritus mainly from the active Chisana arc, remnant Chitina and Talkeetna arcs, and Permian-Triassic plutons (Alexander terrane) of the Wrangellia composite terrane. Other sources of detritus for the Kahiltna assemblage were Upper Triassic-Lower Jurassic plutons of the Taylor Mountains batholith and Devonian-Mississippian plutons; both of these source areas are part of the Yukon-Tanana terrane. The Kahiltna assemblage is overlain by previously unrecognized nonmarine strata informally referred to here as the Caribou Pass formation. This unit is at least 250 m thick and has been tentatively assigned an Albian-Cenomanian-to-younger age based on limited palynomorphs and fossil leaves. Sandstone composition (Q-65% F-9% L-26%-Lv-28% Lm-52% Ls-20%) from this unit suggests a quartz-rich metamorphic source terrane that we interpret as having been the Yukon-Tanana terrane. Collectively, provenance data indicate that there was a fundamental shift from mainly arc-related sediment derivation from sources located south of the study area during Jurassic-Early Cretaceous (Aptian) time (Kahiltna assemblage) to mainly continental margin-derived sediment from sources located north and east of the study area by Albian-Cenomanian time (Caribou Pass formation). We interpret the threepart stratigraphy defined for the northwestern Talkeetna Mountains to represent pre- (the Honolulu Pass formation), syn- (the Kahiltna assemblage), and post- (the Caribou Pass formation) collision of the Wrangellia composite terrane with the Mesozoic continental margin. A similar Mesozoic stratigraphy appears to exist in other parts of south-central and southwestern Alaska along the suture zone based on previous regional mapping studies. New geologic mapping utilizing the three-part stratigraphy interprets the northwestern Talkeetna Mountains as consisting of two northwest-verging thrust sheets. Our structural interpretation is that of more localized thrust-fault imbrication of the three-part stratigraphy in contrast to previous interpretations of nappe emplacement or terrane translation that require large-scale displacements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-438
Number of pages38
JournalSpecial Paper of the Geological Society of America
StatePublished - 2007


  • Kahiltna
  • Mesozoic
  • Stratigraphy
  • Talkeetna
  • Wrangellia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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