The Silver City Range in southwest New Mexico contains Proterozoic basement rocks that are overlain by a sequence of Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Paleogene strata. These rocks are folded in a broad, NW-SE–trending, east-facing monocline that lies structurally above an east-directed thrust fault. The youngest rocks folded in the Silver City monocline are similar to other late Eocene and early Oligocene volcanic rocks of the Mogollon-Datil volcanic field; an ash-flow tuff near the bottom of the volcanic sequence gives an 40Ar/39Ar age on sanidine of 34.9 ± 0.4 Ma (2σ), and another tuff near the top of the section contains zircons that yield a weighted 206Pb/238U age of 34.6 ± 0.6 Ma (2σ). We interpret similar structures in the Little Burro Mountains, Lone Mountain, and Bayard area, immediately east and west of the Silver City monocline, to all be genetically related to a system of basement-involved thrust faults. Modeling of these structures from the Mangas Valley in the southwest to the Mimbres Valley in the northeast, suggests ∼17% total shortening. We conclude that Laramide shortening was active in southwest New Mexico generally, and the Silver City region in particular, from the Cretaceous until the earliest phase of Mogollon-Datil volcanism beginning at ∼37 Ma, during which time the earliest extension in the southern Rio Grande rift was initiated. The final stage of Laramide shortening, recorded in the Silver City monocline, took place during a lull of volcanism (and extension) from ∼31.5 to ∼29.3 Ma. We explain the contemporaneity of shortening, significant ignimbrite eruptions, and crustal extension as the consequence of intermittent slab breakoff and renewed underthrusting of the downgoing Farallon plate.
- Received 9 February 2011.
- Revision received 7 June 2011.
- Accepted 10 June 2011.
- © 2011 Geological Society of America