This study presents the long-term exhumation history of the Wrangellia composite terrane of the remote and ice-covered northern St. Elias Mountains in southwest Yukon, northwest British Columbia, and adjacent Alaska. Detrital zircon and apatite fission-track age distributions are presented from 21 glacial catchments. The detrital sampling approach allows for a large spatial coverage (∼30,000 km2) and access to material eroded beneath the ice. An additional five bedrock samples were dated by zircon fission-track analysis for a comparison with detrital results. Our new thermochronology data record the Late Jurassic–mid-Cretaceous accretion of the Wrangellia composite terrane to the former North American margin and magmatism, which reset the older thermal record. The good preservation of the Jurassic–Cretaceous record suggests that Cenozoic erosion must have been limited overall. Nonetheless, Eocene spreading-ridge subduction and Oligocene–Neogene cooling in response to the ongoing Yakutat flat-slab subduction are evident in the study area despite its inboard position from the active plate boundary. The results further indicate an area of rapid exhumation at the northern end of the Fairweather fault ca. 10–5 Ma; this area is bounded by discrete, unmapped structures. The area of rapid exhumation shifted southwest toward the plate boundary and the center of the St. Elias syntaxis after 5 Ma. Integrating the new data with published detrital thermochronology from the southern St. Elias Mountains reveals an evolving concentration of deformation and exhumation, possibly within a large-scale, transpressional structure providing important constraints for geodynamic models of syntaxes.
- Received 20 November 2015.
- Revision received 7 April 2016.
- Accepted 26 April 2016.
- © 2016 Geological Society of America