Application of thermochronological techniques to major normal fault systems can resolve the timing of initiation and duration of extension, rates of motion on detachment faults, timing of ductile mylonite formation and passage of rocks through the crystal-plastic to brittle transition, and multiple events of extensional unroofing. Here we determine the above for the top-to-the-east Raft River detachment fault and shear zone by study of spatial gradients in 40Ar/39Ar and fission track cooling ages of footwall rocks and cooling histories and by comparison of cooling histories with deformation temperatures. Mica 40Ar/39Ar cooling ages indicate that extension-related cooling began at ???25-20 Ma, and apatite fission track ages show that motion on the Raft River detachment proceeded until ???7.4 Ma. Collective cooling curves show acceleration of cooling rates during extension, from 5-10??C/m.y. to rates in excess of 70-100??C/m.y. The apparent slip rate along the Raft River detachment, recorded in spatial gradients of apatite fission track ages, is 7 mm/yr between 13.5 and 7.4 Ma and is interpreted to record the rate of migration of a rolling hinge. Microstructural study of footwall mylonite indicates that deformation conditions were no higher than middle greenschist facies and that deformation occurred during cooling to cataclastic conditions. These data show that the shear zone and detachment fault represent a continuum produced by progressive exhumation and shearing during Miocene extension and preclude the possibility of a Mesozoic age for the ductile shear zone. Moderately rapid cooling in middle Eocene time likely records exhumation resulting from an older, oppositely rooted, extensional shear zone along the west side of the Grouse Creek, Raft River, and Albion Mountains. Copyright 2000 by the American Geophysical Union.
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Dating of major normal fault systems using thermochronology: An example from the Raft River detachment, Basin and Range, western United States