Title

Birth of the Northern Cordilleran Orogen, as Recorded by Detrital Zircons in Jurassic Synorogenic Strata and Regional Exhumation in Yukon

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

10-2015

Abstract

The Whitehorse trough is an Early to Middle Jurassic marine sedimentary basin that overlaps the Intermontane terranes in the northern Cordillera. Detrital zircon dates from eight Laberge Group sandstones from various parts of the trough all display a major Late Triassic–Early Jurassic peak (220–180 Ma) and a minor peak in the mid-Paleozoic (340–330 Ma), corresponding exactly with known igneous ages from areas surrounding the trough. Source regions generally have Early Jurassic (ca. 200–180 Ma) mica cooling dates, and the petrology of metamorphic rocks and Early Jurassic granitoid plutons flanking the trough suggests rapid exhumation during emplacement. These data suggest that subsidence and coarse clastic sedimentation in the trough occurred concurrently with rapid exhumation of the shoulders. Isolated occurrences of sandstone and conglomerate units with similar detrital zircon signatures occur west and east of the trough, as well as overlapping the Cache Creek terrane, indicating that either the trough was once more extensive, or isolated basins tapped similar sources. Development of these sedimentary basins and accompanying rapid exhumation in the northern Cordillera were coeval with the onset of orogenic activity in the hinterland of the southern Canadian Cordillera, and subsidence in the western Canada foreland sedimentary basin. The Whitehorse trough is interpreted as a forearc basin that progressively evolved into a collisional, synorogenic piggyback basin developed atop the nascent Cordilleran orogen. Upper Jurassic–Lower Cretaceous fluvial deposits overlapping the Whitehorse trough have detrital zircons that were mainly derived from recycling of the Laberge Group, but they also contain zircons exotic to the northern Intermontane terranes that are interpreted to reflect windblown detritus from the Late Jurassic–Early Cretaceous magmatic arc that developed either atop the approaching Insular terranes to the west or southern Stikinia.