Middle Jurassic Topawa group, Baboquivari Mountains, south-central Arizona: Volcanic and sedimentary record of deep basins within the Jurassic magmatic arc

Gordon B. Haxel, James E. Wright, Nancy R. Riggs, Richard M. Tosdal, Daniel J. May

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Among supracrustal sequences of the Jurassic magmatic arc of the southwestern Cordillera, the Middle Jurassic Topawa Group, Baboquivari Mountains, south-central Arizona, is remarkable for its lithologic diversity and substantial stratigraphic thickness, ∼8 km. The Topawa Group comprises four units (in order of decreasing age): (1) Ali Molina Formation-largely pyroclastic rhyolite with interlayered eolian and fluvial arenite, and overlying conglomerate and sandstone; (2) Pitoikam Formation-conglomerate, sedimentary breccia, and sandstone overlain by interbedded silt- stone and sandstone; (3) Mulberry Wash Formation-rhyolite lava flows, flow breccias, and mass-flow breccias, with intercalated intraformational conglomerate, sedimentary breccia, and sandstone, plus sparse within-plate alkali basalt and comendite in the upper part; and (4) Tinaja Spring Porphyry-intrusive rhyolite. The Mulberry Wash alkali basalt and comendite are genetically unrelated to the dominant calcalkaline rhyolite. U-Pb isotopic analyses of zircon from volcanic and intrusive rocks indicate the Topawa Group, despite its considerable thickness, represents only several million years of Middle Jurassic time, between approximately 170 and 165 Ma. Sedimentary rocks of the Topawa Group record mixing of detritus from a minimum of three sources: a dominant local source of porphyritic silicic volcanic and subvolcanic rocks, identical or similar to those of the Topawa Group itself; Meso- proterozoic or Cambrian conglomerates in central or southeast Arizona, which contributed well-rounded, highly durable, polycyclic quartzite pebbles; and eolian sand fields, related to Middle Jurassic ergs that lay to the north of the magmatic arc and are now preserved on the Colorado Plateau. As the Topawa Group evidently represents only a relatively short interval of time, it does not record long-term evolution of the Jurassic magmatic arc, but rather represents a Middle Jurassic "stratigraphic snapshot" of the arc. This particular view of the arc has been preserved primarily because the Topawa Group accumulated in deep intra-arc basins. These nonmarine basins were fundamentally tectonic and extensional, rather than volcano-tectonic, in origin. Evidence from the Topawa Group supports two previous paleogeographic inferences: the Middle Jurassic magmatic arc in southern Arizona was relatively low standing, and externally derived sediment was introduced into the arc from the continent (northeast) side, without appreciable travel along the arc. We speculate that because the Topawa Group intra-arc basins were deep and rapidly subsiding, they became the locus of a major (though probably intermittent) fluvial system, which flowed into the low-standing magmatic arc from its northeast flank.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-357
Number of pages29
JournalSpecial Paper of the Geological Society of America
StatePublished - 2005


  • Alkali basalt
  • Arizona
  • Comendite
  • Conglomerate
  • Jurassic
  • Magmatic arc
  • Rhyolite
  • Sandstone
  • Stratigraphy
  • Tectonic basin
  • U-pb geochronology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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