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Origin and tectonic evolution of the Maclaren and Wrangellia terranes, eastern Alaska Range, Alaska

June 9, 1985

Major portions of the eastern Alaska Range, south of the Denali fault, in the McCarthy, Nabesna, Mount Hayes, and eastern Healy quadrangles, consist predominantly of the Maclaren and Wrangellia tectono-stratigraphic terranes. The Maclaren terrane consists of the Maclaren Glacier metamorphic belt and the regionally deformed and metamorphosed East Susitna batholith. The Maclaren Glacier metamorphic belt is composed of argillite, metagraywacke, and sparse andesite flows that are progressively regionally metamorphosed from lower greenschist facies to middle amphibolite facies near the East Susitna batholith. The East Susitna batholith is composed of gabbro, quartz diorite, granodiorite, and sparse quartz monzonite. Isotopic ages are as old as a K-Ar hornblende age of 87.5 m.y., possibly reset, and a U-Pb zircon age of 70 m.y. The batholith is intensely deformed and regionally metamorphosed under conditions of the middle amphibolite facies.

The Wrangellia terrane is divided into two subterranes: (1) the Slana River subterrane, composed of late Paleozoic andesite to dacite flows, tuff, limestone, and argillite, unconformably overlying massive basalt flows of the Triassic Nikolai Greenstone, Late Triassic limestone, and younger Mesozoic flysch; and (2) the Tangle subterrane, a deeper-water equivalent of the Slana River subterrane, composed of late Paleozoic and Early Triassic aquagene tuff, chert, minor andesite tuff and flows, limestone, unconformably overlying pillow basalt and massive basalt flows of the Triassic Nikolai Greenstone, and Late Triassic limestone. Both subterranes are intruded by locally extensive gabbro and diabase dikes and by cumulate mafic and ultramafic sills.

Less extensive terranes (two) are the Clearwater terrane, a sequence of intensely deformed chlorite schist, muscovite schist, marble, and greenstone of Late Triassic age; and an unnamed terrane of ultramafic and associated rocks of presumable Paleozoic or Mesozoic age. Each terrane or subterrane generally has (1) a distinctive time-stratigraphic sequence reflecting a unique geologic history; (2) a missing provenance for bedded sedimentary or volcanic rocks; and (3) bounding thrust or strike-slip faults, interpreted as accretionary sutures.

The Maclaren and Wrangellia terranes are juxtaposed along the Broxson Gulch thrust, which consists of an imbricate series of north-dipping thrust faults. Paralleling the Broxson Gulch thrust, a few kilometres to the south, is the north-dipping Eureka Creek thrust, along which are juxtaposed the Slana River and Tangle subterranes. The Maclaren terrane is correlated with the Kluane Schist and the Ruby Range batholith in the southern Yukon Territory, which represent the northward extension of the Taku and Tracy Arm terranes. If correct, this correlation defines a minimum displacement of the Maclaren terrane along the Denali fault of ∼400 km.

The Maclaren terrane is interpreted to have formed in a synorogenic Andean-type arc setting on the west margin of Mesozoic North America in the middle to late Mesozoic and early Cenozoic. The Wrangellia terrane is interpreted to have initially formed in an island-arc setting during the late Paleozoic. Subsequently in the Late Triassic, the Wrangellia terrane underwent rifting near the paleoequator, with formation of the Nikolai Greenstone and associated mafic and ultra-mafic igneous rocks. In the middle and late Mesozoic, Wrangellia migrated toward, and was accreted during, the middle Cretaceous to the Maclaren terrane along the Broxson Gulch thrust. Subsequent dispersion of both the Maclaren and Wrangellia terranes along the Denali fault and the Broxson Gulch thrust commenced during the early Tertiary and continues through the present.

Publication Year 1985
Title Origin and tectonic evolution of the Maclaren and Wrangellia terranes, eastern Alaska Range, Alaska
DOI 10.1130/0016-7606(1985)96<1251:OATEOT>2.0.CO;2
Authors Warren J. Nokleberg, D. L. Jones, Norman J. Silberling
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title GSA Bulletin
Index ID 70210572
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center