Atigun Gorge, at the northern front of the eastern Endicott Mountains, contains well-exposed rocks of the upper part of the Endicott Mountains allochthon and rocks of the structurally higher Picnic Creek or Ipnavik River allochthon. These allochthons contain rocks as young as Early Cretaceous (Valanginian) and are separated by a nearly vertical fault zone that contains exotic blocks of Triassic and Jurassic chert and silicified mudstone. Siliceous rocks of this type are not present in the Endicott Mountains allochthon but are characteristic of the Picnic Creek, Ipnavik River, and some of the other allochthons that structurally overlie the Endicott Mountains allochthon in the central and western Brooks Range. These exotic blocks, therefore indicate that structurally higher rocks of either the Picnic Creek or Ipnavik River allochthon were emplaced during the Early Cretaceous and are preserved along the northern flank of the eastern Endicott Mountains. The deformed thickness of this higher allochthon in the subsurface north of the mountains is unknown but probably exceeds 2 kilometers. Similar relations are mapped east of Atigun Gorge in an area of structural transition from the eastern Endicott Mountains into the northern Philip Smith Mountains, which are formed by the parautochthonous North Slope stratigraphic assemblage. The allochthonous rocks at the mountain front are regionally unconformably overlain by proximal Lower Cretaceous (Albian) foredeep conglomerate at the southern flank of the Colville basin, but at Atigun Gorge, the base of these deposits is interpreted as a possible back thrust at a triangle zone. Conglomerate clasts in the foredeep deposits are dominantly chert, mafic igneous rock, and other lithologies characteristic of the Picnic Creek and Ipnavik River allochthons and scattered clasts from the Endicott Mountains allochthon. The conglomerates show that the chert-rich allochthonous rocks and the Endicott Mountains allochthon were emplaced in the north-central Brooks Range by large-scale crustal shortening (>300 km) between the Valanginian and Albian (??135 to ??112 Ma). This orogenic event significantly postdates early stages of Brooks Range orogeny but predates later stages of orogeny documented by stratigraphic and apatite fission-track data. These relations reduce the magnitude of shortening inferred at the triangle zone at the Brooks Range mountain front. The outcrop data suggest that some of the strata preserved at a structurally low level north of the mountain front and visible in the seismic data of the Trans-Alaska Crustal Transect (TACT) may consist of clastic sedimentary rocks of the structurally higher Picnic Creek or Ipnavik River allochthon. Copyright 1997 by the American Geophysical Union.
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Tectonic evolution of the central Brooks Range mountain front: Evidence from the Atigun Gorge region