Stitch in the ditch: Nutzotin Mountains (Alaska) fluvial strata and a dike record ca. 117-114 Ma accretion of Wrangellia with western North America and initiation of the Totschunda fault

Jeffrey M. Trop, Jeffrey A. Benowitz, Donald Q. Koepp, David Sunderlin, Matthew E. Brueseke, Paul W. Layer, Paul G. Fitzgerald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The Nutzotin basin of eastern Alaska consists of Upper Jurassic through Lower Cretaceous siliciclastic sedimentary and volcanic rocks that depositionally overlie the inboard margin of Wrangellia, an accreted oceanic plateau. We present igneous geochronologic data from volcanic rocks and detrital geochronologic and paleontological data from nonmarine sedimentary strata that provide constraints on the timing of deposition and sediment provenance. We also report geochronologic data from a dike injected into the Totschunda fault zone, which provides constraints on the timing of intra-suture zone basinal deformation. The Beaver Lake formation is an important sedimentary succession in the northwestern Cordillera because it provides an exceptionally rare stratigraphic record of the transition from marine to nonmarine depositional conditions along the inboard margin of the Insular terranes during mid-Cretaceous time. Conglomerate, volcanic-lithic sandstone, and carbonaceous mudstone/shale accumulated in fluvial channel-bar complexes and vegetated overbank areas, as evidenced by lithofacies data, the terrestrial nature of recovered kerogen and palynomorph assemblages, and terrestrial macrofossil remains of ferns and conifers. Sediment was eroded mainly from proximal sources of upper Jurassic to lower Cretaceous igneous rocks, given the dominance of detrital zircon and amphibole grains of that age, plus conglomerate with chiefly volcanic and plutonic clasts. Deposition was occurring by ca. 117 Ma and ceased by ca. 98 Ma, judging from palynomorphs, the youngest detrital ages, and ages of crosscutting intrusions and underlying lavas of the Chisana Formation. Following deposition, the basin fill was deformed, partly eroded, and displaced laterally by dextral displacement along the Totschunda fault, which bisects the Nutzotin basin. The Totschunda fault initiated by ca. 114 Ma, as constrained by the injection of an alkali feldspar syenite dike into the Totschunda fault zone. These results support previous interpretations that upper Jurassic to lower Cretaceous strata in the Nutzotin basin accumulated along the inboard margin of Wrangellia in a marine basin that was deformed during mid-Cretaceous time. The shift to terrestrial sedimentation overlapped with crustalscale intrabasinal deformation of Wrangellia, based on previous studies along the Lost Creek fault and our new data from the Totschunda fault. Together, the geologic evidence for shortening and terrestrial deposition is interpreted to reflect accretion/suturing of the Insular terranes against inboard terranes. Our results also constrain the age of previously reported dinosaur footprints to ca. 117 Ma to ca. 98 Ma, which represent the only dinosaur fossils reported from eastern Alaska.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)82-110
Number of pages29
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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