Paleoproterozoic orogenesis and quartz-arenite deposition in the Little Chino Valley area, Yavapai tectonic province, central Arizona, USA


Spencer, Jon E.
Pecha, Mark E.
Gehrels, George E.
Dickinson, William R.
Domanik, Kenneth J.; and Quade, Jay

New field mapping and laboratory studies of Paleoproterozoic rock units around Little Chino Valley in central Arizona clarify the timing of magmatism, deformation, and sedimentation in part of the Yavapai tectonic province and yield new insights into sources of sands and weathering environments. Mafic lavas, calc-silicate rocks, and pelitic and psammitic strata in the Jerome Canyon area west of Little Chino Valley were deposited, deformed, and intruded by the 1736 ± 21 (2σ) Ma Williamson Valley Granodiorite. U-Pb geochronologic analysis of detrital zircons from a sample of psammitic strata yielded a maximum depositional age of ca. 1738 Ma. Approximately 25% of the detrital-zircon grains were derived from a ca. 2480 Ma source, as previously identified in Grand Canyon schist units. Kolmogorov-Smirnov statistical comparison of the Jerome Canyon detrital-zircon analyses with Grand Canyon schist analyses indicates that three of the 12 samples analyzed by Shufeldt et al. (2010) are statistically indistinguishable from the Jerome Canyon sample at the 95% confidence level and supports the concept that the Jerome Canyon sequence and Paleoproterozoic schists in the eastern and western Grand Canyon are part of the same tectonostratigraphic terrane. The Del Rio Quartzite on the northeast side of Little Chino Valley, previously considered an outlier of Mazatzal Quartzite, consists of poorly sorted quartz arenite, pebbly quartz arenite, and conglomerate deposited in a braided-stream environment. Microscope examination of 32 thin sections stained for potassium and calcium failed to identify any feldspar, mica, or mafic silicate grains. Similarly, conglomerate clasts consist entirely of vein quartz and less abundant argillite and jasper. A rock unit interpreted as a paleosol beneath the Del Rio Quartzite contains no surviving minerals except quartz, some of which is embayed and rounded as in corrosive saprolitic soils. U-Pb geochronologic analyses of detrital zircons from the 1400-m-thick Quartzite indicate maximum depositional ages of ca. 1745 Ma for the base and ca. 1737 Ma for the top. The unit is folded but is unaffected by the penetrative deformation and metamorphism that affected other Paleoproterozoic volcanic and sedimentary strata in the area, and it is probably significantly younger. We infer that the physically immature but chemically super-mature Del Rio Quartzite was deposited during a time of extreme weathering during a hot, humid climate with exceptionally high atmospheric CO2 concentrations and associated corrosive rainwater rich in carbonic acid.

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Figure 1. Geologic map of the interior of southwestern North America showing location of Precambrian bedrock including Mazatzal and Uncompahgre quartzites and similar units. Also shown are named shear zones in central Arizona and extrapolated boundaries from Arizona to the Rocky Mountains. Modified from Karlstrom and Bowring (1993) and Jones et al. (2009). Note that the Mojave, Yavapai, and Mazatzal provinces are part of the Transcontinental Proterozoic provinces, whereas the Wyoming province is part of the Hudsonian craton.

Publication Listing

Geosphere, v. 12, no. 6, p. 1–21, doi:10.1130/GES01339.1.