A sedimentological and structural analysis of the Proterozoic Uncompahgre Group, Needle Mountains, Colorado

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Siliciclastic sediments of the Proterozoic Uncompahgre Group can be subdivided into stratigraphic units of quartzite (Q) and pelite (P); these units include a basal, fining- and thinning-upward retrogradational sequence (Q1-P1) that records the transition from an alluvial to a shallow-marine setting. Overlying the basal sequence are three thickening- and coarsening-upward progradational sequences (P2-Q2, P3-Q3 and P4-Q4) that were influenced by tide-, storm- and wave-processes. The progradational units are subdivided into the following facies associations in a vertical sequence. Outer-to inner-shelf mudstones, Bouma sequence beds and storm beds of association A are succeeded by inner-shelf to shoreface cross-stratified sandstones of association B. Conglomerates and cross-bedded sandstones of upper association B represent alluvial braid-delta deposits. Tidal cross-bedded facies of the inner shelf/shoreface (association C) gradationally overlie association B. Interbedded within the tidal facies in upper association C are single pebble layers or <1 m-thick conglomerate beds and trough cross-bedded pebbly sandstones. Single pebble layers could be due to storm winnowing whereas conglomerates and pebbly sandstones may record shoaling to an alluvial/ shoreface setting.

A temporally separated storm/alluvial and tidal shelf model best explains the origin and lateral distribution of facies in the progradational sequences. The presence of smaller progradational increments in the mudstone dominated units (P3) and the recurrence of facies associations in the thick quartzite/conglomerate units (Q2, Q3, Q4) suggests that external cyclic factors controlled sedimentation. A composite relative sea level curve integrating glacio-eustatic oscillations and long-term subsidence may account for the evolution of the thick progradational sequences of the Uncompahgre Group.

Sedimentary rocks of the Uncompahgre Group have been subjected to polyphase deformation and greenschist facies metamorphism. Phase 1 structures (localized to the West Needle Mountains) include bedding-parallel deformation zones, F₁ folds and an S₁ cleavage. Phase 2 coaxial deformation resulted in the development of upright, macroscopic F₂ folds and an axial-planar crenulation cleavage, S₂. In addition basement-cover contacts were folded. Phase 3 conjugate shearing generated strike-parallel offset in stratigraphic units, a macroscopic F₃ fold, and an S₃ crenulation cleavage. In addition, oblique-slip, reverse faults were activated along basement-cover contacts.

The Uncompahgre Group unconformably overlies and is inferred to be parautochthonous upon ca. 1750 Ma gneissic basement that was subjected to polyphase deformation (DB) and amphibolite facies metamorphism. Basement was intruded by ca. 1690 Ma granitoids. Deformation of gneissic and plutonic basement together with cover (DBC) postdates deposition of the Uncompahgre Group. The structural evolution of the Uncompahgre Group records the transition from a ductile, north-directed, fold-thrust belt to the formation of a basement involved “megamullion" structure which was subjected to conjugate strike-slip faulting to accommodate further shortening. DBC deformation may be analogous to the deep foreland suprastructure of an orogenic belt that developed from ca. 1690 to 1600 Ma in the southwestern U.S.A ..