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Origin and emplacement of the ultramafic rocks of the Emigrant Gap area, California

May 12, 1971

The ultramafic bodies of the Emigrant Gap area are part of a mafic complex within a large composite pluton of the northern Sierra Nevada. The pluton was magmatically emplaced and is surrounded by an aureole of hornblende-hornfels facies rocks. Inclusions of country rock in ultramafic rock are of pyroxene-hornfels facies and appear to have been partly melted. Gravity studies indicate that the ultramafic bodies have near-vertical contacts extending to depths of at least 1½ to 2½ km.

The mafic complex shows rough concentric zoning of rock types: ultramafic bodies occur at the core; gabbro forms a discontinuous intermediate unit; and diorite, tonalite, and granodiorite occur at the margins. Within the ultramafic bodies, unserpentinized wehrlitic peridotite is dominant; dunite and olivine clinopyroxenite are present but greatly subordinate. The ultramafic rocks consist almost entirely of olivine (FO80) and diopside (Ca46Mg46Fe8); orthopyroxene, hornbolende, and plagioclase occur locally. The gabbro, diorite, tonalite, and granodiorite contain both ortho- and clinopyroxene.

Both ultramafic and two-pyroxene-bearing rocks were emplaced nearly simultaneously, as partly crystallized magmas and magmatic crystal mushes that had similar temperature. In all the rocks the structures are dominantly magmatic and were produced by sorting and orientation of crystals by magmatic flow. Structures produced by post-consolidation deformation and replacement are minor and local.

The structural and chemical relations within the mafic complex suggest that all the rocks are derived from a single gabbroic magma by crystal fractionation, with the ultramafic rocks formed by mechanical accumulation of early crystallized mafic minerals, and the two pyroxene-bearing granodiorite crystallized from a felsic differentiate. It is likely that flowage differentiation was the dominant process of crystal segregation.

The Emigrant Gap mafic complex is similar in structure, rock texture, and mineralogy to zoned ultramafic complexes, such as those of south-eastern Alaska, and is very different from either stratiform or alpine-type bodies. Though unlike the Alaskan bodies in detail, it appears that this complex should be classed with the zoned complexes in any broad grouping of ultramafic occurrences.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1971
Title Origin and emplacement of the ultramafic rocks of the Emigrant Gap area, California
DOI 10.1093/petrology/12.3.523
Authors O.B. James
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Petrology
Index ID 70210063
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center