Clastic dikes of Heart Mountain fault breccia, northwestern Wyoming, and their significance

Professional Paper 1133




Structural features in northwestern Wyoming indicate that the Heart Mountain fault movement was an extremely rapid, cataclysmic event that created a large volume of carbonate fault breccia derived entirely from the lower part of the upper plate. After fault movement had ceased, much of the carbonate fault breccia, here called calcibreccia, lay loose on the resulting surface of tectonic denudation. Before this unconsolidated calcibreccia could be removed by erosion, it was buried beneath a cover of Tertiary volcanic rocks: the Wapiti Formation, composed of volcanic breccia, poorly sorted volcanic breccia mudflows, and lava flows, and clearly shown in many places by inter lensing and intermixing of the calcibreccia with basal volcanic rocks. As the weight of volcanic overburden increased, the unstable water-saturated calcibreccia became mobile and semifluid and was injected upward as dikes into the overlying volcanic rocks and to a lesser extent into rocks of the upper plate. In some places the lowermost part of the volcanic overburden appears to have flowed with the calcibreccia to form dike like bodies of mixed volcanic rock and calcibreccia. One calcibreccia dike even contains carbonized wood, presumably incorporated into unconsolidated calcibreccia on the surface of tectonic denudation and covered by volcanic rocks before moving upward with the dike. Angular xenoliths of Precambrian rocks, enclosed in another calcibreccia dike and in an adjoining dikelike mass of volcanic rock as well, are believed to have been torn from the walls of a vent and incorporated into the basal part of the Wapiti Formation overlying the clastic carbonate rock on the fault surface. Subsequently, some of these xenoliths were incorporated into the calcibreccia during the process of dike intrusion. Throughout the Heart Mountain fault area, the basal part of the upper-plate blocks or masses are brecciated, irrespective of the size of the blocks, more intensely at the base and in places extending upward for several tens of meters. North of Republic Mountain a small 25-m-high upper-plate mass, brecciated to some degree throughout, apparently moved some distance along the Heart Mountain fault as brecciated rock. Calcibreccia dikes intrude upward from the underlying 2 m of fault breccia into the lower part of the mass and also from its top into the overlying volcanic rocks; an earthquake-related mechanism most likely accounts for the observed features of this deformed body. Calcibreccia dikes are more common within the bedding-plane phase of the Heart Mountain fault but also occur in its transgressive and former land-surface phases. Evidence that the Wapiti Formation almost immediately buried loose, unconsolidated fault breccia that was the source of the dike rock strongly suggests a rapid volcanic deposition over the area in which clastic dikes occur, which is at least 75 km long. Clastic dikes were injected into both the upper-plate and the volcanic rocks at about the same time, after movement on the Heart Mouuntain fault had ceased, and therefore do not indicate a fluid-flotation mechanism for the Heart Mountain fault. The difference between contacts of the clastic dikes with both indurated and unconsolidated country rock is useful in field mapping at localities where it is difficult to distinguish between volcanic rocks of the Cathedral Cliffs and Lamar River Formations, and the Wapiti Formation. Thus, calcibreccia dikes in the Cathedral Cliffs and Lamar River Formations show a sharp contact because the country rock solidified prior to fault movement, whereas calcibreccia dikes in the Wapiti Formation in many instances show a transitional or semifluid contact because the country rock was still unconsolidated or semifluid at the time of dike injection.

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Clastic dikes of Heart Mountain fault breccia, northwestern Wyoming, and their significance
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Professional Paper
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25 p.