Linking deep and shallow crustal processes in an exhumed continental arc, North Cascades, Washington

Robert B. Miller, Stacia M. Gordon, Samuel A. Bowring, Brigid A. Doran, Noah M. McLean, Zachary D. Michels, Erin K. Shea, Donna L. Whitney, Niki E. Wintzer, Morgan K. Mendoza

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

18 Scopus citations


The magmatic arc represented by the crystalline core of the North Cascades (Cascades core) reached a crustal thickness of ≥55 km in the mid-Cretaceous. Eocene collapse of the arc was marked by migmatization, magmatism, and exhumation of deep-crustal (9-12 kb) rocks at the same time as subsidence and rapid deposition in nearby transtensional nonmarine basins. The largest region of deeply exhumed rocks, the migmatitic Skagit Gneiss Complex, consists primarily of leucocratic, biotite tonalite orthogneiss intruded between ca. 76-59 Ma and 50-45 Ma. Well-layered biotite gneiss is also widespread. U-Pb (isotope dilution-thermal ionization mass spectrometry) dating of zircon and monazite from trondhjemitic leucosome and biotite gneiss mesosome indicates that metamorphism and melt generation/ crystallization occurred at least intermittently from ca. 71 to 47 Ma, and the youngest U-Pb dates overlap Ar/Ar (biotite, muscovite) dates, compatible with rapid cooling. Mesoscopic to map-scale, gently plunging, upright folds have hinge lines subparallel to orogenparallel (NW-SE) lineations in the Skagit Gneiss Complex, and are as young as 48 Ma. Eocene top-to-northwest flow occurred in parts of the complex. The gently to moderately dipping foliation, subhorizontal lineation, and constrictional domains are compatible with ductile transtension linked to dextral-normal displacement on the Ross Lake fault system, the northeastern boundary of the Cascades core. On the south flank of the core, sediments were deposited in part at ca. 51 Ma in the Swauk basin and shortly afterward folded, and then intruded by 47 Ma Teanaway basaltic dikes. Extension taken up by these dikes ranges from ∼10% to 43%. Extension directions from Teanaway and other Eocene dikes are arc-parallel to arc-oblique. The shallowcrustal extension direction is counterclockwise (mostly 10°-30°) to the ductile flow direction, implying decoupling of brittle and ductile crust; however, some coupling is supported by the temporal coincidence between basin formation and partial melting and ductile flow, and the upright folding of both the Skagit Gneiss Complex and Swauk basin. Arc-oblique to arc-parallel flow probably resulted in part from dextral shear along the plate margin, along-strike gradients in crustal thickness, and thermally controlled rheology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGSA Field Guides
PublisherGeological Society of America
Number of pages34
StatePublished - 2009

Publication series

NameGSA Field Guides


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