The provenance of Jurassic to Cretaceous flysch along the northern boundary of the allochthonous Wrangellia composite terrane, exposed from the Lake Clark region of southwest Alaska to the Nutzotin Mountains in eastern Alaska, suggests that the flysch can be divided into two belts having different sources. On the north, the Kahiltna flysch and Kuskokwim Group overlie and were derived from the Farwell and Yukon-Tanana terranes, as well as smaller related terranes that were part of the paleo-Alaskan margin. Paleocurrent indicators for these two units suggest that they derived sediment from the north and west. Sandstones are predominantly lithic wacke that contain abundant quartz grains, lithic rock fragments, and detrital mica, which suggest that these rocks were derived from recycled orogen and arc sources. Conglomerates contain limestone clasts that have fossils matching terranes that made up the paleo-Alaskan margin. In contrast, flysch units on the south overlie and were derived from the Wrangellia composite terrane. Paleocurrent indicators for these units suggest that they derived sediment from the south. Sandstones are predominantly feldspathic wackes that contain abundant plagioclase grains and volcanic rock fragments, which suggest these rocks were derived from an arc. Clast compositions in conglomerate south of the boundary match rock types of the Wrangellia composite terrane.
The distributions of detrital zircon ages also differentiate the flysch units. Flysch units on the north average 54% Mesozoic, 14% Paleozoic, and 32% Precambrian detrital zircons, reflecting derivation from the older Yukon-Tanana, Farewell, and other terranes that made up the paleo-Alaskan margin. In comparison, flysch units on the south average 94% Mesozoic, 1% Paleozoic, and 5% Precambrian zircons, which are consistent with derivation from the Mesozoic oceanic magmatic arc rocks in the Wrangellia composite terrane. In particular, the flysch units on the south contain a large proportion of zircons ranging from 135 to 175 Ma, corresponding to the age of the Chitina magmatic arc in the Wrangellia terrane and the plutons of the Peninsular terrane, which are part of the Wrangellia composite terrane. Flysch units on the north do not contain significant numbers of zircons in this age range. The flysch overlying the Wrangellia composite terrane apparently does not contain detritus derived from rocks of the paleo-Alaska margin, and the flysch overlying the paleo-Alaskan margin apparently does not contain detritus derived from the Wrangellia composite terrane.
The provenance difference between the two belts helps to constrain the location of the northern boundary of the Wrangellia composite terrane. Geophysical models place a deep, through-going, crustal-scale suture zone in the area between the two flysch belts. The difference in the provenance of the two belts supports this interpretation. The youngest flysch is Late Cretaceous in age, and structural disruption of the flysch units is constrained to the Late Cretaceous, so it appears that the Wrangellia composite terrane was not near the paleo-Alaskan margin until the Late Cretaceous.
- Received 19 July 2013.
- Revision received 12 October 2013.
- Accepted 4 November 2013.
- © 2013 Geological Society of America