Ordovician and Silurian Phi Kappa and Trail Creek formations, Pioneer Mountains, central Idaho; stratigraphic and structural revisions, and new data on graptolite faunas

Professional Paper 1090

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Recent geologic mapping in the northern Pioneer Mountains combined with the identification of graptolites from 116 new collections indicate that the Ordovician and Silurian Phi Kappa and Trail Creek Formations occur in a series of thrust-bounded slices within a broad zone of imbricate thrust faulting. Though confirming a deformational style first reported in a 1963 study by Michael Churkin, our data suggest that the complexity and regional extent of the thrust zone were not previously recognized. Most previously published sections of the Phi Kappa and Trail Creek Formations were measured across unrecognized thrust faults and therefore include not only structural repetitions of graptolitic Ordovician and Silurian rocks but also other tectonically juxtaposed lithostratigraphic units of diverse ages as well. Because of this discovery, the need to reconsider the stratigraphic validity of these formations and their lithology, nomenclature, structural distribution, facies relations, and graptolite faunas has arisen. The Phi Kappa Formation in most thrust slices has internal stratigraphic continuity despite the intensity of deformation to which it was subjected. As revised herein, the Phi Kappa Formation is restricted to a structurally repeated succession of predominantly black, carbonaceous, graptolitic argillite and shale. Some limy, light-gray-weathering shale occurs in the middle part of the section, and fine-grained locally pebbly quartzite is present at the base. The basal quartzite is here named the Basin Gulch Quartzite Member of the Phi Kappa. The Phi Kappa redefined on a lithologic basis represents the span of Ordovician time from W. B. N. Berry's graptolite zones 2-4 through 15 and also includes approximately 17 m of lithologically identical shale of Early and Middle Silurian age at the top. The lower contact of the formation as revised is tectonic. The Phi Kappa is gradationally overlain by the Trail Creek Formation as restricted herein. Most of the coarser clastic rocks reported in previously measured sections of the Phi Kappa, as well as the sequence along Phi Kappa Creek from which the name originates, are excluded from the Phi Kappa as revised and are reassigned to two structural plates of Mississippian Copper Basin Formation; other strata now excluded from the formation are reassigned to the Trail Creek Formation and to an unnamed Silurian and Devonian unit. As redefined, the Phi Kappa Formation is only about 240 m thick, compared with the 3,860 m originally estimated, and it occupies only about 25 percent of the outcrop area previously mapped in 1930 by H. G. Westgate and C. P. Ross. Despite this drastic reduction in thickness and the exclusion of the rocks along Phi Kappa Creek, the name Phi Kappa is retained because of widely accepted prior usage to denote the Ordovician graptolitic shale facies of central Idaho, and because the Phi Kappa Formation as revised is present in thrust slices on Phi Kappa Mountain, at the head of Phi Kappa Creek. The lithic and faunal consistency of this unit throughout the area precludes the necessity for major facies telescoping along individual faults within the outcrop belt. However, tens of kilometers of tectonic shortening seems required to juxtapose the imbricated Phi Kappa shale facies with the Middle Ordovician part of the carbonate and quartzite shale sequence of east central Idaho. The shelf rocks are exposed in the Wildhorse structural window of the northeastern Pioneer Mountains, and attain a thickness of at least 1,500 m throughout the region north and east of the Pioneer Mountains. The Phi Kappa is in direct thrust contact on intensely deformed medium- to high-grade metamorphic equivalents of the same shelf sequence in the Pioneer window at the south end of the Phi Kappa-Trail Creek outcrop belt. Along East Pass, Big Lake, and Pine Creeks, north of the Pioneer Mountains, some rocks previously mapped as Ramshorn Slate are lithologically and faunally equivalent to the P

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Ordovician and Silurian Phi Kappa and Trail Creek formations, Pioneer Mountains, central Idaho; stratigraphic and structural revisions, and new data on graptolite faunas
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Professional Paper
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U.S. Govt. Print. Off.,
54 p.; 1 plate in pocket