Stratigraphy, geochronology, geochemistry and tectonic setting of the Mesozoic Nazas Formation, north-central Mexico

Claudio Bartolini, University of Texas at El Paso


Late Triassic to Middle Jurassic volcanic-sedimentary sequences that were part of the Mesozoic continental-margin of western North America are exposed in northern and central Mexico. These sequences have been grouped into the Nazas Formation and crop out in the states of Durango, Coahuila, Zacatecas, and San Luis Potosi. The Nazas Formation consists of 2,500 m or more of volcanic and pyroclastic rocks and interbedded clastic sedimentary rocks that were deposited in alluvial fan and fluvial depositional systems that developed in intra-arc basins, mainly fault-bound grabens and topographic depressions within an extending Mesozoic volcanic arc. Major and trace element geochemistry of volcanic rocks suggests that the volcanic suite is calc-alkaline and includes rhyolite, dacite, rhyodacite, andesite, trachyandesite and rare basalt. Pyroclastic rocks are basically air-fall tuffs and volcanic breccias. The sedimentary strata include conglomerate, sandstone, shale, and siltstone, locally red in color. Geochronology (Ar-Ar, K-Ar and Rb-Sr) and field evidence indicate that the age of the Nazas Formation ranges from Late Triassic to Middle Jurassic, but the peak of arc volcanism appears to be Early and Middle Jurassic. The Mesozoic magmatic arc in Mexico has a northwest trend and extends from Sonora to Chiapas. The arc structure is more than 2,000 km long, and possibly up to 150 km wide. The width of the arc is uncertain due to the limited number of surface outcrops, however, it did not extend east into the Gulf of Mexico. Arc-related magmatism began in latest Triassic time, but the peak of arc evolution occurred during the Early and Middle Jurassic. By Oxfordian time, the arc was deeply dissected and eroded, and magmatic activity had ceased. A marine transgression from the Gulf of Mexico covered most of the Nazas arc, depositing the initial sediments of the Oxfordian Zuloaga Limestone in the Mexican Geosyncline. Jurassic crustal extension in the Gulf of Mexico was contemporaneous with extension along the continental margin volcanic arc in inland Mexico. Both extensional domains are the result of distinct tectonic mechanisms, gave rise to different rock sequences; volcanic-sedimentary sequences within the arc, and red beds and evaporites formed in the Gulf domain. ^

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Recommended Citation

Bartolini, Claudio, "Stratigraphy, geochronology, geochemistry and tectonic setting of the Mesozoic Nazas Formation, north-central Mexico" (1998). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI9903604.