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Stitching the western Piedmont of Virginia: Early Paleozoic tectonic history of the Ellisville Pluton and the Potomac and Chopawamsic Terranes

October 21, 2014

The theme of the 2014 Virginia Geological Field Conference is the tectonic development, economic geology, and seismicity of the western Piedmont of Louisa County, Virginia. It is timely for the conference to turn its attention here, for during the past decade these aspects of western Piedmont geology have garnered the renewed attention of researchers. In terms of regional tectonics, it has been hypothesized that the major structure in the region, the Chopawamsic fault system, represents the most significant boundary in the Appalachian orogen, the main Iapetan suture (Hibbard et al., 2014). Economically, recent elevated market values of metals— particularly that of gold—has spurred reconsideration of the economic geology of the western Piedmont. Finally, the August 23, 2011, M5.8 earthquake, with its epicenter in our field area, startled the North American east coast and has revived awareness of the seismic potential of the region.

This renewed interest in the geology of the western Piedmont of north-central Virginia has led to new detailed bedrock mapping, detailed surficial mapping, high-resolution UPb TIMS zircon geochronology, U-Pb LA-ICPMS detrital zircon geochronology, radiogenic isotope geochemistry, major/minor/REE geochemistry, and geophysical studies (e.g. Bailey et al., 2005, 2008; Bailey and Owens, 2012: Berti et al., 2012; Burton et al., 2014; Burton, in progress; Harrison, 2012; Horton et al., 2010, in press; Hughes, 2010, 2014; Hughes et al., 2013a, 2013b, 2014, in press a, in press b; Malenda, in progress; Owens et al., 2013; Spears and Gilmer 2012; Spears et al. 2013, Terblanche, 2013; Terblanche and Nance, 2012). A host of institutions have taken part in the research, including North Carolina State University, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy, the U.S. Geological Survey, Virginia Tech, Lehigh University, and the College of William and Mary. Many of these investigations remain active. The majority of the data presented herein is the product of research conducted from 2010 to 2014 by geologists at North Carolina State University.

This field trip guide is intended to complement a Geological Society of America field guide (Hughes et al., 2014) that covers the western Piedmont geology along strike to the northeast in the vicinity of Fredericksburg. Geologic mapping and geochronologic and geochemical sampling were coordinated between these two areas as part of a study funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the USGS EDMAP program. Some of the stops in this guide have previously been written up in past field guides (Hughes, 2010; Burton et al., 2014) and are reused here because of their ease of access for large groups and because of new data that update the context and our understanding of the outcrops.

Publication Year 2014
Title Stitching the western Piedmont of Virginia: Early Paleozoic tectonic history of the Ellisville Pluton and the Potomac and Chopawamsic Terranes
Authors K. S. Hughes, J. P. Hibbard, R.T. Sauer, William C. Burton
Publication Type Book
Publication Subtype Conference publication
Index ID 70156794
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center