The Pagosa Peak Dacite is an unusual pyroclastic deposit that immediately predated eruption of the enormous Fish Canyon Tuff (~5000 km3) from the La Garita caldera at 28 Ma. The Pagosa Peak Dacite is thick (to 1 km), voluminous (>200 km3), and has a high aspect ratio (1:50) similar to those of silicic lava flows. It contains a high proportion (40-60%) of juvenile clasts (to 3-4 m) emplaced as viscous magma that was less vesiculated than typical pumice. Accidental lithic fragments are absent above the basal 5-10% of the unit. Thick densely welded proximal deposits flowed rheomorphically due to gravitational spreading, despite the very high viscosity of the crystal-rich magma, resulting in a macroscopic appearance similar to flow-layered silicic lava. Although it is a separate depositional unit, the Pagosa Peak Dacite is indistinguishable from the overlying Fish Canyon Tuff in bulk-rock chemistry, phenocryst compositions, and 40Ar/39Ar age. The unusual characteristics of this deposit are interpreted as consequences of eruption by low-column pyroclastic fountaining and lateral transport as dense, poorly inflated pyroclastic flows. The inferred eruptive style may be in part related to synchronous disruption of the southern margin of the Fish Canyon magma chamber by block faulting. The Pagosa Peak eruptive sources are apparently buried in the southern La Garita caldera, where northerly extensions of observed syneruptive faults served as fissure vents. Cumulative vent cross-sections were large, leading to relatively low emission velocities for a given discharge rate. Many successive pyroclastic flows accumulated sufficiently rapidly to weld densely as a cooling unit up to 1000 m thick and to retain heat adequately to permit rheomorphic flow. Explosive potential of the magma may have been reduced by degassing during ascent through fissure conduits, leading to fracture-dominated magma fragmentation at low vesicularity. Subsequent collapse of the 75 x 35 km2 La Garita caldera and eruption of the Fish Canyon Tuff were probably triggered by destabilization of the chamber roof as magma was withdrawn during the Pagosa Peak eruption. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.