Influence of the Eastern California Shear Zone on deposition of the Mio-Pliocene Bouse Formation: Insights from the Cibola area, Arizona

By: , and 



The Eastern California Shear Zone (ECSZ) is a wide zone of late Cenozoic strike-slip faults and related diffuse deformation that currently accommodates ~20–25% of relative Pacific–North America plate motion in the lower Colorado River region (Fig. 1A; Dokka and Travis, 1990; Miller et al., 2001; Guest et al., 2007; Mahan et al., 2009). The ECSZ is kinematically linked southward to dextral faults in the northern Gulf of California (Bennett et al., 2016a), and it may have initiated ca. 8 Ma when major strike-slip faults developed in the northern Gulf and Salton Trough region (Bennett et al., 2016b; Darin et al., 2016; Woodburne, 2017). Thus deformation related to the ECSZ occurred in the lower Colorado River region during deposition of the Bouse Formation, which is commonly bracketed between 6.0 and 4.8 Ma (House et al., 2008; Sarna-Wojcicki et al., 2011; Spencer et al., 2013) and may be as old as 6–7 Ma in the south (McDougall and Miranda Martínez, 2014, 2016). Post-4.5 Ma broad sagging is recognized along the lower Colorado River (Howard et al., 2015), but the possibility that faults of the ECSZ influenced local to regional subsidence patterns during deposition of the Bouse Formation has received little attention to date (e.g., Homan, 2014; O’Connell et al., 2016).

The Bouse Formation is a widespread sequence of late Miocene to early Pliocene deposits exposed discontinuously along the lower Colorado River corridor (Fig. 1A). In the southern Blythe basin it consists of three regionally correlative members: (1) Basal Carbonate, consisting of supratidal and intertidal mud-flat marls, intertidal and shallow subtidal bioclastic grainstone and conglomerate, and subtidal marl; (2) Siliciclastic member, consisting of Colorado River-derived green claystone, red mudstone and siltstone, and cross-bedded river channel sandstone; and (3) Upper Bioclastic member fossiliferous sandy calcarenite, coarse pebbly grainstone, and calcareous-matrix conglomerate (Homan, 2014; Dorsey et al., 2016; O’Connell et al., 2016, 2017). The southern Bouse Formation has been interpreted as recording deposition in either a lake (Spencer and Patchett, 1997; Spencer et al., 2008, 2013; Bright et al., 2016) or shallow marine setting (Buising, 1990; McDougall, 2008; McDougall and Miranda Martínez, 2014; O’Connell et al., 2017).

In this paper we summarize key results from five field seasons of detailed stratigraphic analysis south of Cibola, Ariz. ( . 1). The data reveal systematic stratal thinning and thickening, pinch-outs, and wedging patterns in the Bouse Formation that we conclude were produced by syn-depositional tilting in response to growth of normal faults near the eastern margin of the basin. Similar stratal patterns in other nearby areas suggest widespread structural controls on deposition of the Bouse Formation. A palinspastic reconstruction of the lower Colorado River region at 5 Ma, modified from Bennett et al. (2016), provides insight to regional fault geometries in the ECSZ that may have controlled syn-depositional tilting and subsidence in Bouse depocenters shortly prior to and during initiation of the Colorado River.

Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Influence of the Eastern California Shear Zone on deposition of the Mio-Pliocene Bouse Formation: Insights from the Cibola area, Arizona
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher California State University Desert Studies Center
Contributing office(s) Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center
Description 8 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Conference publication
Larger Work Title 2017 Desert Symposium Field Guide and Proceedings - ECSZ does it: Revisiting the eastern California Shear Zone
First page 150
Last page 157