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AAPG Bulletin

Abstract


Volume: 79 (1995)

Issue: 8. (August)

First Page: 1087

Last Page: 1115

Title: Geologic Framework of a Transect of the Central Brooks Range: Regional Relations and an Alternative to the Endicott Mountains Allochthon

Author(s): J. S. Kelley (2), W. P. Brosge (3)

Abstract:

This paper evaluates the geologic framework and tectonic development of the central Brooks Range based on a transect through the range and Arctic foothills. A geologic cross section constructed through the transect is confirmed by comparing the retrodeformed section with the regional distribution of lithofacies in the central Brooks Range. Stratigraphic relations in the retrodeformed section are further explained by comparing them to similar stratigraphic relations in the Ikpikpuk-Umiat basin under the Arctic coastal plain.

The structural framework of the central Brooks Range and Arctic foothills consists of fold nappes, thrust faults, and detached folds that sole in decollements and late-stage high-angle faults. In the central Brooks Range, shortening is by north-directed thrust faulting and folding of mostly Paleozoic rocks, and transport of any individual thrust sheet relative to underlying rocks is less than 30 km. In the middle of the range, imbricate blocks of lower Paleozoic basement are exposed in the core of the Doonerak anticline, and thrust sheets of stratigraphically higher Paleozoic rocks that overlie basement are exposed in the limbs of the anticline. In the northeast part of the anticline, the Amawk thrust emplaces Silurian and Upper Devonian rocks on a succession of Lower Mississippian an stratigraphically higher rocks that have been detached from the underlying basement along the Blarney Creek thrust. The Slatepile fault system, a system of high-angle faults in the north limb of the Doonerak anticline, drops the core and part of the north limb of the anticline down, giving the impression that the succession of Lower Mississippian and stratigraphically higher rocks that lie on basement south of the system high-angle faults extends under the Upper Devonian rocks that extensively crop out north of the high-angle faults. In the Arctic foothills, the mostly Paleozoic rocks of the north-central Brooks Range extend under Lower Cretaceous rocks of the North Slope foreland basin, and blind thrusts that sole in the Paleozoic rocks ramp up into the Lower Cretaceous and stratigraph cally higher rocks. Also in the Arctic foothills, a thrust sheet that contains the Arctic foothills assemblage overlies rocks of the north-central Brooks Range and Lower Cretaceous rocks of the North Slope foreland basin. Thrust transport of the Arctic foothills assemblage more than 40 km from south of the Doonerak anticline took place during the Early Cretaceous, but thrusting that deformed rocks of the North Slope foreland basin took place during the early Tertiary, with the vertical uplift of the Doonerak anticline being a late-formed feature.

Conclusions based on the retrodeformed cross section contrast significantly with previous work in which the Upper Devonian and stratigraphically higher rocks north of the Doonerak anticline are considered part of the Endicott Mountains allochthon, a regional allochthon that extends the breadth of the Brooks Range. In these models, Upper Devonian and younger rocks in the north-central Brooks Range have been thrust-transported 90 or 200 km from south of the Doonerak anticline, and emplacement of the allochthon could reflect as much as 885 km of tectonic shortening. The Lower Mississippian and stratigraphically higher rocks together with the underlying basement in the

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northeast part of the anticline are considered to be in a window in the Endicott Mountains allochthon and to extend northward beneath allochthonous Upper Devonian and stratigraphically higher rocks in the north-central Brooks Range.

Lithofacies patterns in rocks in the central Brooks Range are consistent with the retrodeformed cross section and imply plausible Upper Devonian and Carboniferous depositional systems. Thick Upper Devonian and Lower Mississippian(?) clastic prisms were deposited in basins north of the Doonerak anticline. Mississippian carbonate rocks that overlie these clastic prisms were deposited in differentially subsiding shelf environments that included rocks in the Doonerak anticline. Restored across the Blarney Creek thrust, the Mississippian shelf carbonate rocks that presently lie north of the Doonerak anticline are those that were deposited on basement in the anticline. A carbonate ramp at the south edge of these shelf deposits extends east-southeast across the central Brooks Range and in th retrodeformed section lies south of the Doonerak anticline where Upper and Middle(?) Devonian shaly rocks thicken to the south. Unrestored, the ramp would extend across the Doonerak anticline.

Restored Late Devonian and Carboniferous lithofacies patterns in the central Brooks Range also are plausible from a regional perspective and have implications for exploration of basins under the Arctic coastal plain. The Late Devonian to Early Mississippian(?) basins in the north-central Brooks Range are part of a system of Early(?) Devonian to Early Mississippian(?) clastic basins that extend the length of the Brooks Range and include basins under the Arctic coastal plain. These basins are a template for depositional patterns in overlying rocks. Marine shelves between these basins where Mississippian strata unconformably lie on basement, such as in the northeastern Brooks Range and the Doonerak anticline, have depositional histories that are in contrast to areas that overlie the basi s. The resulting stratigraphic framework, together with the structural framework in the basement rocks that controlled the basins, has had a profound effect on the structural style of the fold belt, the salient effect being folds and thrust faults that are not orthogonal to the direction of structural transport. Stratigraphic relations exposed in the fold belt, especially the distribution of potential source rocks, likely model little-explored basins that underlie the North Slope foreland basin.

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