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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists


The Mountain Geologist
Vol. 55 (2018), No. 3. (July), Pages 119-140

Detrital Zircon Geochronology of Pennsylvanian-Permian Strata in Colorado: Evidence for Appalachian-Derived Sediment and Implications for the Timing of Ancestral Rocky Mountains Uplift

Kajal Nair, Christopher Holm-Denoma, John Singleton, Sven Egenhoff


Pennsylvanian-Permian time in north-central Colorado corresponds with uplift of the Ancestral Front Range and deposition of the Fountain, Ingleside, and Lyons Formations along its flanks. In southwestern Colorado, deposition of the Molas and Hermosa Formations along the flanks of the Uncompahgre Highlands largely represents Pennsylvanian time. We present new detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology data for the Ingleside and Lyons Formations in north-central Colorado and the Molas and Hermosa Formations in southwestern Colorado to understand sediment provenance and dispersal patterns. We determined U-Pb ages using LA-ICPMS on 120-150 zircon grains from five sandstone samples collected from shallow marine and eolian facies within the Ingleside, Lyons, Molas, and Hermosa Formations. All sandstone samples display a mixed Laurentian derivation, with age populations that record local and distal sediment sources. All samples also contain between 5% and 10% concordant Paleozoic-age zircon grains ranging from 330–490 Ma, coinciding with high magmatic flux during the Taconic and Acadian orogenies in the Appalachian orogen. Ultimate derivation from the Appalachians are also interpreted for zircon age populations ranging from 500-750 Ma and 1000-1300 Ma that likely originated from Pan-African and Grenville terranes respectively.

This study detects the earliest documented appearance of Paleozoic zircons along the northern Ancestral Front Range, corresponding to deposition of the lower Ingleside Formation. We compare our data along the Front Range to previous detrital zircon studies from the underlying Fountain Formation to conclude that the Fountain-Ingleside transition was accompanied by a decrease in locally sourced detrital zircons, most likely marking the cessation of Ancestral Front Range uplift. Conversely, deposition across the Molas-Hermosa contact in southwestern Colorado was accompanied by an increase in locally-sourced detrital zircon grains, most likely marking the initiation of the Uncompahgre uplift.

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