40Ar/39Ar geochronology and petrogenesis of the Table Mountain Shoshonite, Golden, Colorado, U.S.A.

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Abstract

The Upper Cretaceous and Lower Paleogene Table Mountain Shoshonite lava flows and their proposed source, the Ralston Buttes intrusions, provide insight into the volcanic history of the Colorado Front Range. This study affirms the long-held hypothesis linking the extrusive Table Mountain lava flows and their intrusive equivalents at Ralston Buttes through major- and trace- element geochemistry. Systematic 40Ar/39Ar geochronology from all flows and intrusive units refines the eruptive history, improves precision on previously reported ages, and provides tighter constraints on the position of the K-Pg boundary in this location. Four flows are recognized on North and South Table mountains outside of Golden, Colorado. Flow 1 (66.5 ± 0.3 Ma, all ages reported with 2σ uncertainty) is the oldest, most compositionally distinct flow and is separated from younger flows by approximately 35 m of sedimentary deposits of the Denver Formation. Stratigraphically adjacent flows 2 (65.8 ± 0.2 Ma), 3 (65.5 ± 0.3 Ma), and 4 (65.9 ± 0.3 Ma) are compositionally indistinguishable. Lavas (referred to here as unit 5) that form three cone-shaped structures (shown by this study to be volcanic vents of a new unit 5) on top of North Table Mountain are compositionally similar to other units, but yield an age almost 20 m.y. younger (46.94 ± 0.15 Ma). Geochemistry and geochronology suggest that the rim phase of the Ralston plug (65.4 ± 0.2 Ma) is a reasonable source for flows 2, 3, and 4. All units are shoshonites—potassic basalts containing plagioclase, augite, olivine, and magnetite phenocrysts—and plot in the continental-arc field in tectonic discrimination diagrams. A continental-arc setting coupled with Late Cretaceous to early Paleogene ages suggest the high-K magmatism is associated with Laramide tectonism.

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