Jurassic–Cretaceous sedimentary rocks of the Alberta foreland basin are a key record of the evolution of the Canadian Cordillera. We test a recent model for cyclical development of Cordilleran orogenic systems using detrital zircon analysis of the major sandstone units deposited between 145 and 80 Ma exposed in the Rocky Mountain Foothills near Grande Cache, Alberta. The basin history is well constrained by decades of study, and the stratigraphy has been previously subdivided into tectonostratigraphic wedges. U-Pb data from 14 detrital zircon samples are included in this study. All the major magmatic provinces of North America are represented in each sample, with the relative proportions varying between samples. The samples are assigned to five groups with the aid of multidimensional scaling. Groups 1–3 are interpreted to record recycling from specific passive-margin units of western North America with varying input from the Cordilleran magmatic arc. Group 4 is interpreted to record recycling from sedimentary strata in the United States and dispersal by basin-axial fluvial systems. Group 5 is dominated by Mesozoic zircon grains interpreted to have originated in the Cordilleran magmatic arc. Detrital zircon age spectra do not form groups based on the tectonostratigraphic wedges from which they were sampled; rather, within each tectonostratigraphic wedge, they exhibit evolution from diverse age spectra to a less-diverse distribution of detrital zircon ages.
We constructed a proxy for magmatic flux of the Cordilleran magmatic arc using detrital zircon ages younger than 200 Ma; it shows three modes at ca. 165, 115, and 74 Ma. These ages are considered high-flux episodes of magmatism that are linked to cyclical uplift and plateau formation in the orogen. This cyclical process is interpreted to: (1) control sedimentation rates in the foreland; (2) account for evolving provenance by altering catchments; and (3) be a plausible mechanism for the deposition of the tectonostratigraphic wedges in the Alberta foreland basin.
- Received 22 February 2016.
- Revision received 8 April 2016.
- Accepted 21 April 2016.
- © 2016 Geological Society of America