The Okanagan Valley shear zone delineates the SW margin of the Shuswap metamorphic complex, the largest core complex within the North American Cordillera. The Okanagan Valley shear zone is a major Eocene extensional fault zone that facilitated exhumation of the southern Shuswap metamorphic complex during the orogenic collapse of the SE Canadian Cordillera when convergence at the western margin of North America switched from transpression to transtension. This study documents the petrology, structure, and age of the Okanagan gneiss, the main lithology within the footwall of the Okanagan Valley shear zone, and constrains its history from protolith to exhumed shear zone. The Okanagan gneiss is an ∼1.5-km-thick, west-dipping panel composed of intercalated orthogneiss and paragneiss in which intense ductile deformation of the Okanagan Valley shear zone is recorded. New U-Pb zircon ages from the gneiss and crosscutting intrusions constrain the development of the Okanagan gneiss to the Eocene, contemporaneous with widespread extension, intense deformation, high-grade metamorphism, and anatexis in the southern Canadian Cordillera. Thermobarometric data from the paragneiss domain indicate Eocene exhumation from between 17 and 23 km depth, which implies 64–89 km of WNW-directed horizontal extension based on an original shear zone angle of ∼15°.
Neither the Okanagan gneiss nor its protolith represents exhumed Proterozoic North American cratonic basement as previously postulated. New U-Pb data demonstrate that the protolith for the gneiss is Phanerozoic, consisting of Mesozoic intrusions emplaced within a late Paleozoic–Mesozoic layered sequence of sedimentary rocks.
- Received 17 January 2012.
- Revision received 27 April 2012.
- Accepted 4 May 2012.
- © 2011 Geological Society of America