Metamorphism and deformation at different structural levels in a strike-slip fault zone, Ross Lake fault, North Cascades, USA

S. M. Gordon, Donna L Whitney, R. B. MIller, N. Mclean, Nick Seaton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Continental crust is displaced in strike-slip fault zones through lateral and vertical movement that together drive burial and exhumation. Pressure. -temperature-deformation (P-T-d) histories of orogenic crust exhumed in transcurrent zones record the mechanisms and conditions of these processes. The Skagit Gneiss Complex, a migmatitic unit of the North Cascades, Washington (USA), was metamorphosed at depths of ∼25-30 km in a continental arc under contraction, and is bounded on its eastern side by the long-lived transcurrent Ross Lake fault zone (RLFZ). The P-T-d conditions recorded by rocks on either side of the RLFZ vary along the length of the fault zone, but most typically the fault separates high-grade gneiss and plutons from lower-grade rocks. The Ruby Mt-Elijah Ridge area at the eastern margin of the Skagit Gneiss exposes tectonic contacts between gneiss and overlying rocks; the latter rocks, including slivers of Methow basin deposits, are metamorphosed and record higher-grade metamorphism than in correlative rocks along strike along the RLFZ. In this area, the Skagit Gneiss and overlying units all yield maximum P-T conditions of 8-10 kbar at >650 °C, indicating that slices of basin rocks were buried to similar mid-crustal depths as the gneiss. After exhumation of fault zone rocks to <15 km depth, intrusion of granitoid plutons drove contact metamorphism, resulting in texturally late andalusite-cordierite in garnet schist. In the Elijah Ridge area of the RLFZ, an overlapping step-over or series of step-overs that evolved through time may have facilitated burial and exhumation of a deep slice of the Methow basin, indicating that strike-slip faults can have major vertical displacement (tens of kilometres) that is significant during the crustal thickening and exhumation stages of orogeny.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-136
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Metamorphic Geology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2010


  • Deformation
  • Metamorphism
  • North Cascades
  • Ross Lake fault
  • Thermobarometry


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