Mid-Cretaceous transtension in the Canadian Cordillera: Evidence from the Rocky Ridge volcanics of the Skeena Group

Kari N. Bassett, Karen L Kleinspehn

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11 Scopus citations


The age relations, geochemistry, and sedimentology of the Rocky Ridge Formation of the Skeena Group are used to test competing tectonic reconstructions for the mid-Cretaceous Canadian Cordillera as well as the timing and location of the accretion of the Insular Superterrane. Pollen and macrofossil assemblages indicate that these intrabasinal basalts were erupted along the southern margin of the Bowser basin in the Early Albian to Early Cenomanian. Single-crystal fusion and step-heating 40Ar/39Ar dating of hornblendes in one basalt flow from the uppermost part of the formation yielded Middle Cenomanian ages of 94.3 ± 0.4, 95.6 ± 1.6, and 95.0 ± 1.6 Ma. Vesicular basalt flows interbedded with crystal-rich tuff breccias contain evidence for hot emplacement as pyroclastic flows. Individual eruptive centers are identified by their proximal facies, paleoflow indicators within the lava flows, paleoflow indicators within interbedded volcaniclastic fluvial deposits, geochemical differences, and geographic isolation of volcanic deposits. Major and trace-element geochemistry from 20 sampled lava flows indicates an alkali basalt composition for the volcanics. The basalts of the northern Rocky Ridge volcanic center show enrichment of light rare earth and large ion lithophile elements with strong negative Nb-Ta anomalies whereas the basalts of the southern Tahtsa Lake volcanic center show depletion to slight enrichment of light rare earth elements, slight enrichment of large ion lithophile elements with minimal negative Nb-Ta anomalies. The geochemistry combined with paleogeographic and regional tectonic reconstruction suggests a continental arc setting with intraarc extension. The presence of deeper marine facies to the west and the lack of a western sediment source in the Skeena Group indicate that the technically active Insular Superterrane was not west of the study area during mid-Cretaceous time. Thus we reconsider the Omineca Belt as the main axis of a midCretaceous continental arc, placing the Intermontane Superterrane in the intraarc to forearc position with the Rocky Ridge volcanics erupted along the forearc side of the Omineca arc. Coeval regional strike-slip faulting and reconstructed oblique plate convergence suggest a transtensional setting for Rocky Ridge intraarc extension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)727-746
Number of pages20
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1996


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