A tale of two rift shoulders, and two ice masses: the Cryogenian glaciated margin of Death Valley, California

Daniel le Heron, Marie Busfield, Dilshad Ali, Thomas Vandyk, Saeed Al Tofaif

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Death Valley area of California, USA, exposes an outstanding record of a Neoproterozoic (Cryogenian) glaciated margin: the Kingston Peak Formation. Despite the quality of exposure, however, the outcrops of glaciogenic strata are fragmentary, forming isolated, laterally offset outcrop belts at the western extremity of the Basin and Range province. Excellent evidence for glacially modulated sedimentation includes (i) ice-rafted dropstones in most ranges, (ii) thick diamictites bearing a variety of exotic (extrabasinal) clasts, (iii) striated clasts, and (iv) local occurrences of glacitectonic deformation structures at the basin margins. In tandem with this, there is a distinct signature of slope collapse processes in many ranges, including (i) up to km-scale olistoliths, (ii) extensional growth fault arrays, (iii) dramatic proximal-distal thickness changes and (iv) basalt occurrences. New sedimentological observations reinforce long-held views of rifting superimposed on glaciation (or vice versa), with both processes contributing to a complex record whereby rift and glacial processes vie for stratigraphic supremacy. We consider that a mechanism of diamictite accumulation in a series of rift-shoulder minibasins produced greatly contrasting successions across the Death Valley area, under the incontrovertible influence of hinterland ice sheets.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-52
Number of pages18
JournalGeological Society of London Special Publication
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2018

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