Plutonism in the central part of the Sierra Nevada Batholith, California

Professional Paper 1483



The Sierra Nevada batholith comprises the plutonic rocks of Mesozoic age that underlie most of the Sierra Nevada, a magnificent mountain range that originated in the Cenozoic by the westward tilting of a huge block of the Earth's crust. Scattered intrusions west of the batholith in the western metamorphic belt of the Sierra Nevada and east of the Sierra Nevada in the Benton Range and the White and Inyo Mountains are satellitic to but not strictly parts of the Sierra Nevada batholith. Nevertheless, all the plutonic rocks are related in origin. The batholith lies along the west edge of the Paleozoic North American craton, and Paleozoic and early Mesozoic oceanic crust underlies its western margin. It was emplaced in strongly deformed but weakly metamorphosed strata ranging in age from Proterozoic to Cretaceous. Sedimentary rocks of Proterozoic and Paleozoic age crop out east of the batholith in the White and Inyo Mountains, and metamorphosed sedimentary and volcanic rocks of Paleozoic and Mesozoic age crop out west of the batholith in the western metamorphic belt. A few large and many small, generally elongate remnants of metamorphic rocks lie within the batholith. Sparse fossils from metasedimentary rocks and isotopic ages for metavolcanic rocks indicate that the metamorphic rocks in the remnants range in age from Early Cambrian to Early Cretaceous. Within the map area (the Mariposa 1 0 by 2 0 quadrangle), the bedding, cleavage, and axial surfaces of folds generally trend about N. 35 0 W., parallel to the long axis of the Sierra Nevada. The country rocks comprise strongly deformed but generally coherent sequences; however, some units in the western metamorphic belt may partly consist of melanges. Most sequences are in contact with other sequences, at least for short distances, but some sequences within the batholith are bounded on one or more sides by plutonic rocks. Proterozoic and Paleozoic sedimentary strata east of the Sierra Nevada and Paleozoic strata in remnants of country rocks within the eastern part of the batholith, although strongly deformed, are autochthonous or have been displaced only short distances, whereas some Mesozoic strata in the western metamorphic belt may be allochthonous. Probably the strata in the western metamorphic belt were deposited in marginal basins and island arcs, but the possibility that they were transported from distant places has not been disproved. All the country rocks have been strongly deformed, most of them more than once. Tectonic disturbances occurred during the Devonian and Mississippian (Antler? orogeny), the Permian and (or) Early Triassic (Sonoman? orogeny), the Late Jurassic (Nevadan orogeny), and at various other times during emplacement of the batholith and uplift that accompanied and followed its emplacement. The strata in the western metamorphic belt probably were deformed in an early Mesozoic subduction complex. The plutonic rocks range in composition from gabbro to leucogranite, but tonalite, granodiorite, and granite are the most common rock types. Most are medium to coarse grained, but some small rock masses are fine grained. Most have hypidiomorphic-granular textures and are equigranular, but some having compositions close to the boundary between granite and granodiorite contain large crystals of alkali feldspar. Serpentinized ultramafic rocks are present locally in the western metamorphic belt within and adjacent to the Melones fault zone. Except for serpentinized ultramafic rocks, trondhjemite, and most granites, all the plutonic rocks contain significant amounts of hornblende. Most of the granitoids are metaluminous or weakly peraluminous; strongly peraluminous granites are present only in the White Mountains. Most of the granitoids are assigned to units of lithodemic rank, and most of these units are assigned to intrusive suites. Plutons assigned to the same lithodeme are composed of rock of similar composition, fabric, and age and are presumed to h

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Plutonism in the central part of the Sierra Nevada Batholith, California
Series title Professional Paper
Series number 1483
DOI 10.3133/pp1483
Edition -
Year Published 1992
Language ENGLISH
Description 186 p., 2 plates in pocket