Geology Faculty Publications

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Brigham Young University Geology Studies


The purpose of this geological excursion is to provide an overview of the multiphase developmental history of the Ruby Mountains and East Humboldt Range, northeastern Nevada. Although these mountain ranges are commonly cited as a classic example of a Cordilleran metamorphic core complex developed through large-magnitude, mid-Tertiary crustal extension, a preceding polyphase Mesozoic contractional history is also well preserved in the ranges. An early phase of this history involved Late Jurassic two-mica granitic magmatism, high-temperature but relatively low-pressure metamorphism, and polyphase deformation in the central Ruby Mountains. In the northern Ruby Mountains and East Humboldt Range, a Late Cretaceous history of crustal shortening, metamorphism, and magmatism is manifested by fold-nappes (involving Archean basement rocks in the northern East Humboldt Range), widespread migmatization, injection of monzogranitic and leucogranitic magmas, all coupled with sillimanite-grade metamorphism.

Following Late Cretaceous contraction, a protracted extensional deformation partially overprinted these areas during the Cenozoic. This extensional history may have begun as early as the Late Cretaceous or as late as the mid-Eocene. Late Eocene and Oligocene magmatism occurred at various levels in the crust yielding mafic to felsic orthogneisses in the deep crust, a composite granitic pluton in the upper crust, and volcanic rocks at the surface. Movement along a west-rooted, extensional shear zone in the Oligocene and early Miocene led to core-complex exhumation. The shear zone produced mylonitic rocks about 1 km thick at deep crustal levels, and an overprint of brittle detachment faulting at shallower levels as unroofing proceeded.

Megabreccias and other synextensional sedimentary deposits are locally preserved in a tilted, upper Eocene through Miocene stratigraphic sequence. Neogene magmatism included the emplacement of basalt dikes and eruption of rhyolitic rocks. Subsequent Basin and Range normal faulting, as young as Holocene, records continued tectonic extension.

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Recent field studies in the Ruby Mountains by Snoke and Howard were supported by NSF grant EAR-9627958, and the geochemical studies on the Harrison Pass pluton and granitic rocks of upper Lamoille Canyon were supported by NSF grant EAR-9627814.


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