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Scientific Investigations Report 2013–5206

Geochronology and Correlation of Tertiary Volcanic and Intrusive Rocks in Part of the Southern Toquima Range, Nye County, Nevada

By Daniel R. Shawe, Lawrence W. Snee, Frank M. Byers, Jr., and Edward A. du Bray

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (3.4 MB)Abstract

Extensive volcanic and intrusive igneous activity, partly localized along regional structural zones, characterized the southern Toquima Range, Nevada, in the late Eocene, Oligocene, and Miocene. The general chronology of igneous activity has been defined previously. This major episode of Tertiary magmatism began with emplacement of a variety of intrusive rocks, followed by formation of nine major calderas and associated with voluminous extrusive and additional intrusive activity. Emplacement of volcanic eruptive and collapse megabreccias accompanied formation of some calderas. Penecontemporaneous volcanism in central Nevada resulted in deposition of distally derived outflow facies ash-flow tuff units that are interleaved in the Toquima Range with proximally derived ash-flow tuffs.

Eruption of the Northumberland Tuff in the north part of the southern Toquima Range and collapse of the Northumberland caldera occurred about 32.3 million years ago. The poorly defined Corcoran Canyon caldera farther to the southeast formed following eruption of the tuff of Corcoran Canyon about 27.2 million years ago. The Big Ten Peak caldera in the south part of the southern Toquima Range Tertiary volcanic complex formed about 27 million years ago during eruption of the tuff of Big Ten Peak and associated air-fall tuffs. The inferred Ryecroft Canyon caldera formed in the south end of the Monitor Valley adjacent to the southern Toquima Range and just north of the Big Ten Peak caldera in response to eruption of the tuff of Ryecroft Canyon about 27 million years ago, and the Moores Creek caldera just south of the Northumberland caldera developed at about the same time. Eruption of the tuff of Mount Jefferson about 26.8 million years ago was accompanied by collapse of the Mount Jefferson caldera in the central part of the southern Toquima Range. An inferred caldera, mostly buried beneath alluvium of Big Smoky Valley southwest of the Mount Jefferson caldera, formed about 26.5 million years ago with eruption of the tuff of Round Mountain. The Manhattan caldera south of the Mount Jefferson caldera and northwest of the Big Ten Peak caldera formed in association with eruption of a series of tuffs, principally the Round Rock Formation, mostly ash-flow tuff, about 24.4 million years ago.

Extensive 40Ar/39Ar dating of about 60 samples that represent many of the Tertiary extrusive and intrusive rocks in the southern Toquima Range provides precise ages that refine the chronology of previously dated units. New geochronologic data indicate that the petrogenetically related Corcoran Canyon, Ryecroft Canyon, and Mount Jefferson calderas formed during a period of about 560,000 years.

Electron microprobe analyses of phenocrysts from 20 samples of six dated units underscore inferred petrogenetic relations among some of these units. In particular, compositions of augite, hornblende, and biotite in tuffs erupted from the Corcoran Canyon, Ryecroft Canyon, and Mount Jefferson calderas are similar, which suggests that magmas represented by these tuffs have similar petrogenetic histories. The unique occurrence of hypersthene in Isom-type tuff confirms its derivation from a source beyond the southern Toquima Range.

First posted April 2, 2014

For additional information, contact:
Director, Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
Box 25046, MS 973
Denver, CO 80225

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Suggested citation:

Shawe, D.R., Snee, L.W., Byers, F.M., Jr., and du Bray, E.A., 2014, Geochronology and correlation of Tertiary volcanic and intrusive rocks in part of the southern Toquima Range, Nye County, Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2013–5206, 105 p., 1 plate,

ISSN 2328–0328 (online)




General Geology of the Southern Toquima Range

Summary of Tertiary Igneous Activity

Tertiary Intrusive and Volcanic Rocks: Synthesis of Previous Findings

40Ar/39Ar Geochronology of Volcanic Units

Phenocryst Compositions as Determined by Electron Microprobe

Petrogenesis of the Tuff of Mount Jefferson (Unit Tmj), and Its Possible Relation to Other Tuffs

Interpretative Summary of Phenocryst Compositions

The Southern Toquima Range Caldera Complex, a Summary



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