High-frequency sampling for detrital zircon analysis can provide a detailed record of fine-scale basin evolution by revealing the temporal and spatial variability of detrital zircon ages within clastic sedimentary successions. This investigation employed detailed sampling of two sedimentary successions in the Methow/Methow-Tyaughton basin of the southern Canadian Cordillera to characterize the heterogeneity of detrital zircon signatures within single lithofacies and assess the applicability of detrital zircon analysis in distinguishing fine-scale provenance changes not apparent in lithologic analysis of the strata. The Methow/Methow-Tyaughton basin contains two distinct stratigraphic sequences of middle Albian to Santonian clastic sedimentary rocks: submarine-fan deposits of the Harts Pass Formation/Jackass Mountain Group and fluvial deposits of the Winthrop Formation. Although both stratigraphic sequences displayed consistent ranges in detrital zircon ages on a broad scale, detailed sampling within each succession revealed heterogeneity in the detrital zircon age distributions that was systematic and predictable in the turbidite succession but unpredictable in the fluvial succession. These results suggest that a high-density sampling approach permits interpretation of finescale changes within a lithologically uniform turbiditic sedimentary succession, but heterogeneity within fluvial systems may be too large and unpredictable to permit accurate fine-scale characterization of the evolution of source regions. The robust composite detrital zircon age signature developed for these two successions permits comparison of the Methow/Methow-Tyaughton basin age signature with known plutonic source-rock ages from major plutonic belts throughout the Cretaceous North American margin. The Methow/Methow-Tyaughton basin detrital zircon age signature matches best with source regions in the southern Canadian Cordillera, requiring that the basin developed in close proximity to the southern Canadian Cordillera and providing evidence against large-scale dextral translation of the Methow terrane.
Additional publication details
Lithofacies control in detrital zircon provenance studies: Insights from the Cretaceous Methow basin, southern Canadian Cordillera