Plate tectonics of the Ancestral Rocky Mountains


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Publication Date

January 1981


The Ancestral Rocky Mountains were intracratonic block uplifts that formed in Colorado and the surrounding region during Pennsylvanian time. Their development related to the collision of North America with South America–Africa, which produced the Ouachita-Marathon orogeny. In Early Pennsylvanian time, suturing was taking place only in the Ouachita region, and foreland deformation took place only in the mid-continent. By Middle Pennsylvanian time, the length of the suture zone had increased, and it was active from the Ouachita to the Marathon region. The extent of cratonic deformation also increased in intensity and in areal extent, culminating in the Ancestral Rocky Mountains. In Late Pennsylvanian time, suturing was taking place only in the Marathon region, and cratonic deformation decreased in extent and spread southward into New Mexico and West Texas. We suggest that the Ancestral Rocky Mountains, and related features over a broad area of the western United States, were formed while an irregularly bounded peninsula of the craton (including the transcontinental arch) was pushed northwestward by the progressive collision-suturing of North America and South America–Africa. This intraplate deformation is, in some respects, like the deformation of Asia in response to the Cenozoic collision with India.


Carboniferous, Collision, Colorado, Cratons, Evolution, Faults, Intraplate Tectonics, Lower Permian, New Mexico, North America, Orogenic Belts, Orogeny, Paleozoic, Pennsylvanian, Permian, Plate Tectonics, Review, Rocky Mountains, Structural Geology, Suturre Zones, Tectonics, Tectonophysics, Texas, Transcurrent Faults, United States, Uplifts

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Geology, Vol. 9, no. 1 (1981).