US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 28 (2003) 113–160


The Ammonoosuc Volcanics, Partridge Formation, and the Oliverian and Highlandcroft Plutonic Suites of the Bronson Hill anticlinorium (BHA) in axial New England are widely accepted as a single Middle to Late Ordovician magmatic arc that was active during closure of Iapetus. Mapping and U–Pb dating indicate, however, that the BHAcontains two volcano-sedimentary-intrusive sequences of probable opposite subduction polarity, here termed the Ammonoosuc and Quimby sequences.

The Ammonoosuc sequence is defined by the Middle Ordovician Ammonoosuc Volcanics near Littleton, NH, the type area, northeast to Milan, NH, and Oquossoc, ME; it also includes black slate of the Partridge Formation (C.bicornis ––zone graptolites, ~457 Ma). Related metamorphosed intrusives are the tonalitic Joslin Turn pluton (469±2 Ma), the Cambridge Black granitic pluton (468±3 Ma), and gabbro, tonalite (467 ±4 Ma), and sheeted diabase of the Chickwolnepy intrusions. These intrusives cut lowermost Ammonoosuc (therefore >469 Ma). Probable uppermost Ammonoosuc is dated at 465±6 and 461±8 Ma. Successively below the Ammonoosuc are the Dead River and Hurricane Mountain Formations (flysch and melange), and the Jim Pond Formation (484±5 Ma) and Boil Mountain Complex (both ophiolite), which are structurally underlain by the Neoproterozoic(?) Chain Lakes massif.

The Quimby sequence is defined by the Lower Silurian(?) to Upper Ordovician Quimby Formation, composed of bimodal volcanics (443 ±4 Ma) and sulfidic shale and graywacke that lie conformably to unconformably above the Ammmonoosuc Volcanics and Partridge Formation. Also in the Quimby sequence are several granitic to sparsely gabbroic plutons of the Highlandcroft (441– 452 Ma) and Oliverian (435–456 Ma) Plutonic Suites, which intrude the Dead River, Ammonoouc and Partridge, but not the Quimby Formation.

Based on faunal, paleolatitude, and isotopic data, the Ammonoosuc sequence and its correlatives and underlying sequences formed off the southern Laurentian margin, but northwest of the principal Iapetan suture, or Red Indian line. The Boil Mountain- Jim Pond-Hurricane Mountain sequence was ramped northwestward over the Chain Lakes massif at ~475 Ma, on the basal Boil Mountain surface. This obduction probably occurred slightly before obduction on the Baie Vert-Brompton surface (BBL), farther NW, over the Laurentian margin, and was followed by Dead River flysch sedimentation, which ended with the abrupt onset of Ammonoosuc-sequence arc magmatism at ~470 Ma. Ammonoosuc eruptions probably ended at ~460 Ma, when Iapetus closed along the Red Indian line.

During a following magmatic hiatus of ~3–5 m.y., now represented by portions of the Partridge Formation that overlie the Ammonoosuc Volcanics, subduction polarity reversed, and subduction resumed below the northwest-dipping Brunswick subduction complex (BSC) of New Brunswick, Canada. Quimby-sequence magmatism (~456–435 Ma) on the newly accreted Laurentian margin occurred above the BSC, whose footwall is now buried to the southeast by mainly Silurian clastic sediments of the Merrimack-Fredericton trough, deposited in the ‘‘Fredericton Sea’’. In Silurian to Early Devonian time, the NW-dipping BSC footwall was paired with a SE-dipping subduction zone that produced arc magmas of the Coastal Volcanic belt, built on the composite Avalon and adjacent peri-Avalonian terranes. Orogen-normal extension produced by rapid rollback of both subduction zones narrowed the Fredericton Sea, produced the Central Maine and Connecticut Valley-Gasp é basins, and culminated in the Acadian orogeny when the sea completely closed in Early Devonian time.