The development of tectonic concepts for the Klamath Mountains province, California and oregon

Arthur W. Snoke, Calvin G. Barnes

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64 Scopus citations


The Klamath Mountains province of northwestern California and southwestern Oregon is a classic example of a mountain belt that developed by the tectonic accretion of rock assemblages of oceanic affinity during progressive crustal growth along an active continental margin. Consequently, the Klamath Mountains province has served as an important model for the definition and application of the terrane conceptas applied to the evolution of Phanerozoic orogenic belts. Early regional studies divided the Klamath Mountains province into four arcuate lithic belts of contrasting age (from east to west): the eastern Klamath, central metamorphic, western Paleozoic and Triassic, and western Jurassic belts. The lithic belts are bounded by regional thrust faults that commonly include ophiolitic assemblages in the hanging-wall block. The age of thrusting is a complex problem because of structural overprinting, but generallythe age of regional thrust faulting is older in eastern parts of the province and younger to the west. The lithic belts were subsequently subdivided into many tectonostratigraphic terranes, and these lithotectonic units are always fault-bounded. Few of the regional faults are fossil subduction zones, but multiple episodes of high pressure- low temperature (blueschist-facies) metamorphism are recognized in the Klamath Mountains province. The tectonostratigraphic terranes of the Klamath Mountains province are intruded by many composite, mafic to felsic, arc-related plutons, some of which reach batholithic dimensions. Many of these plutonic bodies were emplaced during the Jurassic; however, radiometric dates ranging from Neoproterozoic through Early Cretaceous have been determined from (meta)plutonic rocks of the KlamathMountains province. The orogenic evolution of the province apparently involved the alternation of contraction and extension, as exemplified by the Jurassic history of the province. Widespread Middle Jurassic plutonism and metamorphism is associated with a poorly understood contractional history followed by the development of the Preston Peak-Josephine ophiolite and Upper Jurassic Galice Formation in a probable transtensional inter-arc basin. During the Late Jurassic Nevadan orogeny, this basin collapsed, and rocks of the Galice Formation were thrust beneath the Rattlesnake Creek terrane along the Orleans fault. During this regional deformation, the Galice Formation experienced polyphase deformation and was metamorphosed under lower greenschist-facies conditions. Immediately following thrusting, the hangingwall and footwall blocks of the Orleans fault were intruded by a suite of composite, mafic to felsic plutons (i.e., western Klamath plutonic suite) that have oceanic-arc geochemical and isotopic characteristics, indicating a subduction-zone petrogenesis for the magmas. The western boundary of the Klamath Mountains province is a regional thrust fault that emplaced the rocks of the province above Early Cretaceous blueschist-facies rocks (South Fork Mountain Schist) of the Franciscan Complex. Neogene structural doming is manifested in the north-central Klamath Mountains by the Condrey Mountain window, which exposes the high pressure-low temperature Condrey Mountain Schist framed by chiefly amphibolite-facies metamorphic rocks of the Rattlesnake Creek terrane.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
JournalSpecial Paper of the Geological Society of America
StatePublished - 2006


  • Accretionary orogen
  • Accretionary subduction complexes
  • Blueschist-facies metamorphism
  • Continental growth
  • History of geology
  • Igneous and metamorphic rocks
  • Intraoceanic arcs
  • Jurassic orogenies
  • Klamath mountains
  • Neogene structural dome
  • Northwestern California
  • Ophiolite
  • Southwestern oregon
  • Tectonostratigraphic terranes
  • Tethyan fauna
  • Thrust faults


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