The leading edge of the Cordilleran fold and thrust in southwest Montana appears to be a continuation of the edge of the Wyoming thrust belt, projected northward beneath the Snake River Plain. Trces of the thrust faults that form the leading edge of the thrust belts are mostly concealed, but stratigraphic and structural evidence suggests that the belt enters Montana near the middle of the Centennial Mountains, continues west along the Red Rock River valley, and swings north into the Highland Mountains near Butte. The thrust belt in southwest Montana and east-central Idaho includes at least two major plates -- the Medicine Lodge and Grasshopper thrust plates -- each of which contains a distinctive sequence of rocks, different in facies and structural style from those of the cratonic region east of the thrust belt. The thrust plates are characterized by persuasive, open to tight and locally overturned folds, and imbricate thrust faults, structural styles unusual in Phanerozoic cratonic rocks. The basal decollement zones of the plates are composed of intensely sheared, crushed, brecciated, and mylonitized rocks, the decollement at the base of the Medicine Lodge plate is as much as 300 meters thick. The Medicine Lodge and Grasshopper thrust plates are fringed on the east by a 10- to 50-kilometer-wide zone of tightly folded rocks cut by imbricate thrust fauls, a zone that forms the eastern margin of the thrust belt in southwest Montana. The frontal fold and thrust zone includes rocks that are similar to those of the craton, even though they differ in details of thickness, composition, or stratigraphic sequence. The zone is interpreted to be one of terminal folding and thrusting in cratonic rocks overridden by the major thrust plates from farther west. The cratonic rocks were drape-folded over rising basement blocks that formed a foreland bulge in front of the thrust belt. The basement blocks are bounded by steep faults of Proterozoic ancestry, which also moved as tear faults during thrusting, and seem to have controlled the curving patterns of salients and reentrants at the leading edge of the thrust belt. Radiometric and stratiographic evidence shows that the thrust belt was in its present position by about 75 million year go.
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USGS Numbered Series
The thrust belt in Southwest Montana and east-central Idaho