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Stratigraphy, age, and depositional setting of the Miocene Barstow Formation at Harvard Hill, central Mojave Desert, California

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Abstract

New detailed geologic mapping and geochronology of the Barstow Formation at Harvard Hill, 30 km east of Barstow, CA, help to constrain Miocene paleogeography and tectonics of the central Mojave Desert. A northern strand of the Quaternary ENE-striking, sinistral Manix fault divides the Barstow Formation at Harvard Hill into two distinct lithologic assemblages. Strata north of the fault consist of: a green rhyolitic tuff, informally named the Shamrock tuff; lacustrine sandstone; partially silicified thin-bedded to massive limestone; and alluvial sandstone to pebble conglomerate. Strata south of the fault consist of: lacustrine siltstone and sandstone; a rhyolitic tuff dated at 19.1 Ma (U-Pb); rock-avalanche breccia deposits; partially silicified well-bedded to massive limestone; and alluvial sandstone and conglomerate. Our U-Pb zircon dating of the Shamrock tuff by SHRIMP-RG yields a peak probability age of 18.7 ± 0.1 Ma. Distinctive outcrop characteristics, mineralogy, remanent magnetization, and zircon geochemistry (Th/U) suggest that the Shamrock tuff represents a lacustrine facies of the regionally extensive Peach Spring Tuff (PST). Here we compare zircon age and geochemical analyses from the Shamrock tuff with those of the PST at Stoddard Wash and provide new insight into the age of zircon crystallization in the PST rhyolite. Results of our field studies show that Miocene strata at Harvard Hill mostly accumulated in a lacustrine environment, although depositional environments varied from a relatively deep lake to a very shallow lake or even onshore setting. Rock-avalanche breccias and alluvial deposits near the base of the exposed section indicate proximity to a steep basin margin and detrital studies suggest a southern source for coarse-grained deposits; therefore, we may infer a southern basin-margin setting at Harvard Hill during the early Miocene. Our geochronology demonstrates that deposition of the Barstow Formation at Harvard Hill extended from before ~19.1 Ma until well after ~18.7 Ma, similar to timing of Barstow Formation lake deposition in the Calico Mountains but at least 3 million years older than comparable lacustrine facies in the Mud Hills type section. These observations are consistent with either of two paleogeographic models: westward transgression of lacustrine environments within a single large basin, or sequential development of geographically distinct eastern and western sub-basins.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Stratigraphy, age, and depositional setting of the Miocene Barstow Formation at Harvard Hill, central Mojave Desert, California
Year Published 2010
Language English
Publisher California State University Desert Studies Consortium
Contributing office(s) Geology, Minerals, Energy, & Geophysics Science Center
Description 20 p.
Larger Work Type Conference Paper
Larger Work Title Overboard in the Mojave: 20 million years of lakes and wetlands
Conference Title 2010 Desert Symposium
Conference Date April, 2010
Country United States
State California
Other Geospatial Harvard Hill, Mojave Desert
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N