Time-space relations of extension and volcanism place critical constraints on models of Basin and Range extensional processes. This paper addresses such relations in a 130-km-wide transect in the eastern Great Basin, bounded on the east by the Ely Springs Range and on the west by the Grant and Quinn Canyon ranges. Stratigraphic and structural data, combined with 40Ar/39Ar isotopic ages of volcanic rocks, document a protracted but distinctly episodic extensional history. Field relations indicate four periods of faulting. Only one of these periods was synchronous with nearby volcanic activity, which implies that volcanism and faulting need not be associated closely in space and time. Based on published dates and the analyses reported here, the periods of extension were (1) prevolcanic (pre-32 Ma), (2) early synvolcanic (30 to 27 Ma), (3) immediately postvolcanic (about 16 to 14 Ma), and (4) Pliocene to Quaternary. The break between the second and third periods is distinct. The minimum gap between the first two periods is 2 Ma, but the separation may be much larger. Temporal separation of the last two periods is only suggested by the stratigraphic record and cannot be rigorously demonstrated with present data. The three younger periods of faulting apparently occurred across the entire transect. The oldest period is recognized only at the eastern end of the transect, but appears to correlate about 150 km northward along strike with extension in the Northern Snake Range-Kern Mountains area. Therefore the oldest period also is regional in extent, but affected a different area than that affected by younger periods. This relation suggests that distinct extensional structures and master detachment faults were active at different times. The correlation of deformation periods of a few million years duration across the Railroad Valley-Pioche transect suggests that the scale of active extensional domains in the Great Basin may be greater than 100 km across strike.
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