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Title: Detrital sanidine 40Ar/39Ar dating confirms <2 Ma age of Crooked Ridge paleoriver and subsequent deep denudation of the southwestern Colorado Plateau
Abstract Crooked Ridge and White Mesa in northeastern Arizona (southwestern United States) preserve, as inverted topography, a 57-km-long abandoned alluvial system near the present drainage divide between the Colorado, San Juan, and Little Colorado Rivers. The pathway of this paleoriver, flowing southwest toward eastern Grand Canyon, has led to provocative alternative models for its potential importance in carving Grand Canyon. The ∼50-m-thick White Mesa alluvium is the only datable record of this paleoriver system. We present new 40Ar/39Ar sanidine dating that confirms a ca. 2 Ma maximum depositional age for White Mesa alluvium, supported by a large mode (n = 42) of dates from 2.06 to 1.76 Ma. Older grain modes show abundant 37–23 Ma grains mostly derived ultimately from the San Juan Mountains, as is also documented by rare volcanic and basement pebbles in the White Mesa alluvium. A tuff with an age of 1.07 ± 0.05 Ma is inset below, and hence provides a younger age bracket for the White Mesa alluvium. Newly dated remnant deposits on Black Mesa contain similar 37–23 Ma grains and exotic pebbles, plus a large mode (n = 71) of 9.052 ± 0.003 Ma sanidine. These deposits could be part of the White Mesa alluvium without any Pleistocene grains, but new detrital sanidine data from the upper Bidahochi Formation near Ganado, Arizona, have similar maximum depositional ages of 11.0–6.1 Ma and show similar 40–20 Ma San Juan Mountains–derived sanidine. Thus, we tentatively interpret the <9 Ma Black Mesa deposit to be a remnant of an 11–6 Ma Bidahochi alluvial system derived from the now-eroded southwestern fringe of the San Juan Mountains. This alluvial fringe is the probable source for reworking of 40–20 Ma detrital sanidine and exotic clasts into Oligocene Chuska Sandstone, Miocene Bidahochi Formation, and ultimately into the <2 Ma White Mesa alluvium. The <2 Ma age of the White Mesa alluvium does not support models that the Crooked Ridge paleoriver originated as a late Oligocene to Miocene San Juan River that ultimately carved across the Kaibab uplift. Instead, we interpret the Crooked Ridge paleoriver as a 1.9–1.1 Ma tributary to the Little Colorado River, analogous to modern-day Moenkopi Wash. We reject the “young sediment in old paleovalley” hypothesis based on mapping, stratigraphic, and geomorphic constraints. Deep exhumation and beheading by tributaries of the San Juan and Colorado Rivers caused the Crooked Ridge paleotributary to be abandoned between 1.9 and 1.1 Ma. Thermochronologic data also provide no evidence for, and pose substantial difficulties with, the hypothesis for an earlier (Oligocene–Miocene) Colorado–San Juan paleoriver system that flowed along the Crooked Ridge pathway and carved across the Kaibab uplift.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1545986 1348007
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Page Range / eLocation ID:
438 to 454
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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