Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)



Department name when degree awarded


Committee Chair(s)

Susanne U. Janecke


Susanne U. Janecke


Brad Ritts


James Evans


The Grasshopper basin of southwest Montana is a complex east-dipping graben containing five unconformity-bounded sequences of Tertiary sedimentary rocks. The Eocene-Oligocene basin lies within the northern Rocky Mountain Basin and Range province. Geologic mapping in five and a half 7.5 minute quadrangles indicates that at least three distinct phases of extension characterize the Cenozoic tectonic evolution of Grasshopper basin from approximately 46 Ma to < Ma.

The significant phases of extension in Grasshopper basin were phases 1 and 3. During the first phase of extension (46-27 Ma) the nonplanar Muddy-Grasshopper fault was initiated and 90% of the basin fill was deposited. At least 7 km of dip-slip displacement along this fault controlled the deposition of the Medicine Lodge beds (3.5 km thick) and development of a transverse fold train and a longitudinal anticline. The second phase of extension (late Eocene-early Oligocene) resulted in northwest-southeast trending extensional structures and was probably coincident with deformation along the Lemhi Pass fault (20 km to the southwest). The third phase of deformation (early Oligocene-middle Miocene) dismembered the once larger protobasin into smaller subbasins and tilted the northwest-dipping limb of the longitudinal anticline. The structures formed during this phase have north-south and northeast trends. Little sediment was deposited during phases 2 and 3. Overall > 85% E-W extension accrued.

Extensional folds are common in Grasshopper basin and formed during all three phases of extension. One orthogonal fold set was recorded. Two-dimensional kinematic analysis of the longitudinal Bachelor Mountain anticline shows that this fold is a double-­rollover that probably developed above a longitudinal ramp in the Muddy-Grasshopper fault. The transverse folds are the result of the changing strike of the downward­-flattening Muddy-Grasshopper fault. A transverse syncline developed above a convex up part of the fault whereas a transverse anticline formed above a concave up part of the fault that reflects changes in the strike of the fault. Three-dimensional inclined shear probably created this geometry.



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