Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Hells Canyon to the Bitterroot front: A transect from the accretionary margin eastward across the Idaho batholith

January 1, 2014

This field guide covers geology across north-central Idaho from the Snake River in the west across the Bitterroot Mountains to the east to near Missoula, Montana. The regional geology includes a much-modified Mesozoic accretionary boundary along the western side of Idaho across which allochthonous Permian to Cretaceous arc complexes of the Blue Mountains province to the west are juxtaposed against autochthonous Mesoproterozoic and Neoproterozoic North American metasedimentary assemblages intruded by Cretaceous and Paleogene plutons to the east. The accretionary boundary turns sharply near Orofino, Idaho, from north-trending in the south to west-trending, forming the Syringa embayment, then disappears westward under Miocene cover rocks of the Columbia River Basalt Group. The Coolwater culmination east of the Syringa embayment exposes allochthonous rocks well east of an ideal steep suture. North and east of it is the Bitterroot lobe of the Idaho batholith, which intruded Precambrian continental crust in the Cretaceous and Paleocene to form one of the classical North American Cordilleran batholiths. Eocene Challis plutons, products of the Tertiary western U.S. ignimbrite flare-up, intrude those batholith rocks. This guide describes the geology in three separate road logs: (1) The Wallowa terrane of the Blue Mountains province from White Bird, Idaho, west into Hells Canyon and faults that complicate the story; (2) the Mesozoic accretionary boundary from White Bird to the South Fork Clearwater River east of Grangeville and then north to Kooskia, Idaho; and (3) the bend in the accretionary boundary, the Coolwater culmination, and the Bitterroot lobe of the Idaho batholith along Highway 12 east from near Lewiston, Idaho, to Lolo, Montana.

Publication Year 2014
Title Hells Canyon to the Bitterroot front: A transect from the accretionary margin eastward across the Idaho batholith
DOI 10.1130/2014.0037(01)
Authors Reed S. Lewis, Keegan L. Smith, Richard M. Gaschnig, Todd A. LaMaskin, Karen Lund, Keith D. Gray, Basil Tikoff, Tor Stetson-Lee, Nicholas Moore
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70191845
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center