Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Geosciences

Committee Chair

James Sears

Commitee Members

Julia Baldwin, Paul Wilson


2-mica, Anaconda metamorphic core complex, Bouguer, Chief Joseph pluton, detachment, Eocene, extension, geochronology, graben, gravity, half-graben, Late Cretaceous, Miocene, Neogene, Oligocene, Paleogene, Pioneer Mountains, U-Pb, zircon


University of Montana


Tertiary terrestrial sedimentary rocks of the Big Hole basin and Pioneer Mountains of southwestern Montana provide a record of regional extensional tectonism. Detailed observations of stratigraphy and sedimentology at widely scattered outcrops indicate the presence of paleosols, fine-grained debris flows, small alluvial channels, and rare fluvial deposits. U-Pb geochronology of detrital zircons and air-fall tuffs indicates the presence of Oligocene to Middle Miocene sedimentary rocks outcropping at the surface. Though the presence of detrital muscovite in several outcrops indicates derivation from the nearby 2-mica Chief Joseph pluton, a predicted ~75 Ma zircon population is not present: instead, a persistent peak of 70-72 Ma zircons is found throughout the basin, indicating the Chief Joseph pluton may have a younger emplacement age than is currently recognized. Simple physical models developed from Bouguer anomalies indicate the basin deepens and widens toward the south, which agrees with prior work suggesting Eocene initiation of extension in the Big Hole and places it in a class of extensional basins that formed in the early Tertiary. Late Cretaceous, Eocene, and Mesoproterozoic detrital zircon populations, along with consistently immature lithic sands, all indicate sediments were derived from local bedrock sources found around the rim of the modern Big Hole Valley. While these results indicate the Tertiary Big Hole basin resembled the modern basin, some later deformation may have cut off and reversed a paleodrainage flowing out of the southeastern portion of the basin, possibly leading to the modern configuration of the Big Hole River and the deep gorge it carves across the eastern Pioneer Mountains.



© Copyright 2010 Warren Paul Roe