Sedimentation and extensional basin evolution in a Miocene metamorphic core complex setting, Alvord Mountain, central Mojave Desert, California, USA



The Lower Miocene Clews Formation at Alvord Mountain, Mojave Desert, California, comprises an upward coarsening sequence of synextensional continental deposits of variable thickness; this sequence pinches out to the west against the Alvord Mountain pre-Tertiary basement complex and thickens eastward to c.300 m over a distance of 7 km. Two stages of sedimentation are recognized in the formation. During the initial stage of sedimentation, the depocentre was delineated by a lacustrine system that was bounded to the west by small, sheetflood-dominated alluvial fans and to the north by a southerly flowing fluvial braidplain. Lacustrine mudstone, siltstone and carbonate suggest an initially closed basin. Conglomerate to the west represents small, sheetflood-dominated fans. Igneous clasts and a south-east palaeoflow direction suggest a proximal, low-relief source in the western Alvord Mountain area. Pebbly sandstone of the southward-prograding braidplain has a metasedimentary provenance in the Paradise Range to the north. The second stage of deposition was dominated by coarse conglomerate and breccia. West to southwest palaeotransport indicators and a distinctive metaigneous petrofacies indicate a provenance in the Cronese Hills, 8 km to the east. These strata reflect rapid westward progradation of sheetflood- and debris flow-dominated alluvial fans that advanced across the axial braidplain and lacustrine system.

Basin development is interpreted to have been controlled by regional NE-directed extension on a detachment fault associated with the central Mojave metamorphic core complex. 30 km to the west. The Alvord Mountain - Cronese Hills region was initially transported as a single hangingwall block on the E-dipping detachment. Initial lacustrine sedimentation reflects the development of a flexural or sag basin in the hangingwall. Subsequent westward progradation of alluvial fans out of the Cronese Hills is believed to record the propagation of a NW-striking, SW-dipping normal fault antithetic to the low-angle E-dipping detachment fault.