Reconnaissance geochronology of tuffs in the Miocene Barstow Formation: implications for basin evolution and tectonics in the central Mojave Desert

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Early to middle Miocene lacustrine strata of the Barstow Formation are well dated in just a few places, limiting our ability to infer basin evolution and regional tectonics. At the type section in the Mud Hills, previous studies have shown that the lacustrine interval of the Barstow Formation is between ~16.3 Ma and ~13.4 Ma. Elsewhere, lake beds of the Barstow Formation have yielded vertebrate fossils showing the Hemingfordian/Bartovian transition at ~16 Ma but are otherwise poorly dated. In an attempt to clarify the age and depositional environments of the lake deposits, we are mapping the Barstow Formation and dating zircons from interbedded tuffs, as well as testing ash-flow tuffs for the distinctive remanent magnetization direction of the widespread Peach Spring Tuff.

Thus far, our new U-Pb zircon ages inficate that the Barstow lake beds contain tuff beds as old as 19.1 Ma and as young as 15.3 Ma. At Harvard Hill, Barstow lake beds contain a thick tuff dated at 18.7 Ma. On the basis of zircon ages, mineralogy, zircon chemistry, and paleomagnetic results, we consider the thick tuff to be a lacustrine facies of the Peach Spring Tuff. We have identified the Peach Spring Tuff by similar methods at eight localities over a broad area, providing a timeline for several fluvial and lacustrine sections.

The new dates indicate that long-lived lacustrine systems originated before 19 Ma and persisted to at least 15 Ma. The onset of lacustrine conditions predates the Peach Spring Tuff in most Barstow Formation sections and may be older than 19.5 Ma in some places. The new data indicate that the central Mojave Desert contained narrow to broad lake basins during and after extension, and that Barstow lacustrine deposits did not exclusively postdate extensional tectonics. At present, it is unclear whether several separate, small lake basins coexisted during the early to middle Miocene, or if instead several small early Miocene basins gradually coalesced over about 6 millions years to form one or two large middle Miocene lake basins.

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Publication type Book
Publication Subtype Conference publication
Title Reconnaissance geochronology of tuffs in the Miocene Barstow Formation: implications for basin evolution and tectonics in the central Mojave Desert
Year Published 2010
Language English
Publisher California State University Desert Studies Consortium
Publisher location Fullerton, CA
Description 15 p.
Larger Work Type Report
Larger Work Subtype Other Report
Larger Work Title Overboard in the Mojave: 20 million years of lakes and wetlands
Conference Title 2010 Desert Symposium
Conference Location Fullerton, CA
Conference Date 2010-04-01T00:00:00
Country United States
Other Geospatial Mojave Desert
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