Overlapping plutonism, volcanism, and tectonism in the boulder batholith region, western Montana

Memoir of the Geological Society of America
By: , and 



It is well known that the Boulder batholith region experienced intensive plutonism, volcanism, and tectonism that all began in Late Cretaceous time, after at least 700 m.y. of structural and igneous inactivity except for sporadic epeirogeny. Recent stratigraphic, structural, paleontologic, arid, especially, radiometric evidence makes it possible to date these dynamic events rather closely. The time relations that are revealed do not form a simple sequence of volcanism-folding-thrusting-batholith emplacement, as has often been supposed, but involve an intertwined complex. Significant volcanism began ∼ 85 m.y. ago in late Coniacian or early Santonian time, with deposition of the thick, local tuffaceous Slim Sam Formation. Volcanism climaxed from 77 to 79 m.y. ago, in early Campanian time, when the region was buried under at least 10,000 feet of calc-alkalic volcanic and volcaniclastic rocks, which included many sheets of welded tuff - the Elkhorn Mountains Volcanics -, and a vast amount of contemporaneous ash was airborne beyond the region. Major volcanism ceased ∼ 73 m.y. ago, late in the Campanian, not to recur until early Eocene time, ∼ 50 m.y. ago. The bulk of the batholith was emplaced beneath and within the volcanic edifice in early and middle Campanian time, during a 6 m.y. span from 78 to 72 m.y. ago, and some leucocratic masses were intruded during the next few million years, so that the whole batholith was emplaced within about 10 m.y. Folding at and near the site of the batholith began in late Coniacian or Santonian time and culminated before middle Campanian time; the main folding north and east of the batholith was post-Campanian, probably Maestrichtian. Thrusting began before middle Santonian time, and recurred intermittently well into the Maestrichtian, or even a little later. Thus volcanism, plutonism, folding, and thrusting began and ended within a few million years of each other, during the last 20 m.y. of the Cretaceous. Major folding, thrusting, and volcanism started about the same time, though not always at the same places, and a little earlier than plutonism. In any given locality, volcanism ended before major folding; the climax of plutonism followed the climax of volcanism; thrusting preceded and accompanied plutonism near the batholith, but followed plutonism farther away; thrusting ended a little later than folding. These dynamic processes so closely related in time and space must also be genetically related in the Boulder batholith region. Gilluly's (1965) conclusion that the orogeny which produced the great Cretaceous thrusts of Montana was "essentially without plutonic associations" is not tenable.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Overlapping plutonism, volcanism, and tectonism in the boulder batholith region, western Montana
Series title Memoir of the Geological Society of America
DOI 10.1130/MEM116-p557
Volume 116
Year Published 1968
Language English
Publisher Geological Society of American
Description 20 p.
First page 557
Last page 576
Country United States
State Montana
City Helena, Boulder, Deer Lodge, Butte
Other Geospatial boulder batholith
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