Mesoproterozoic–Early Cretaceous provenance and paleogeographic evolution of the Northern Rocky Mountains: Insights from the detrital zircon record of the Bridger Range, Montana, USA


The Bridger Range of southwest Montana, USA, preserves one of the most temporally extensive sedimentary sections in North America, with strata ranging from Mesoproterozoic to Cretaceous in age. This study presents new detrital zircon geochronologic data from eight samples collected across this mountain range. Multidimensional scaling and non-negative matrix factorization statistical analyses are used to quantitatively unmix potential sediment sources from these and 54 samples compiled from previous studies on regional correlative strata. We interpret these sources based on reference data from preserved strata with detrital zircon signatures likely representative of ancient sediment sources. We link these sources to their sinks along sediment dispersal pathways interpreted using available paleogeographic constraints. Our results show that Mesoproterozoic strata in southwest Montana contain detritus derived from the nearby craton exposed along the southern margin of the fault-bounded Helena Embayment. Middle Cambrian strata were dominated by the recycling of local sources eroded during the development of the Great Unconformity. In Devonian–Pennsylvanian time, provenance in southwest Montana shifted to more distal sources along the northeastern to southeastern margins of Laurentia, but more western basins received detritus from outboard sources along a tectonically complicated margin. By the Late Jurassic, provenance in the developing retroarc foreland basin system was dominated by Cordilleran magmatic arcs and fold-thrust belt sources to the west. Eastward propagation of the fold-thrust belt caused recycling of Paleozoic and Jurassic detritus into the foreland basin to dominate by the Early Cretaceous.




Ronemus, Chance B., Devon A. Orme, Saré Campbell, Sophie R. Black, and John Cook. “Mesoproterozoic–Early Cretaceous Provenance and Paleogeographic Evolution of the Northern Rocky Mountains: Insights from the Detrital Zircon Record of the Bridger Range, Montana, USA.” GSA Bulletin 133, no. 3-4 (August 14, 2020): 777–801. doi:10.1130/b35628.1.
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