Relationship between the Ellisville pluton and Chopawamsic fault: Establishment of significant Late Ordovician faulting in the Appalachian Piedmont of Virginia Academic Article uri icon


  • The Chopawamsic fault is the most significant boundary in the western Piedmont of north central Virginia; it separates the metaclastic Early Ordovician or older Potomac terrane of Laurentian affinity from the dominantly metavolcanic Middle to Late Ordovician Chopawamsic terrane of unknown cratonic heritage. On regional maps, the Ellisville pluton had previously been depicted as stitching the Chopawamsic fault, although this relationship has never been documented. It has been hypothesized that the Chopawamsic fault marks the suture of the early Paleozoic Iapetus Ocean, which once separated Laurentian and Gondwanan crustal elements. Consequently, it is important to examine the stitching relationship in detail in order to place timing constraints on motion along this fault. We integrate detailed field mapping, kinematic analysis, petrography, major-oxide, trace, and rare earth element geochemistry, and U-Pb zircon geochronology in order to deduce the relationships between the Ellisville pluton, the Chopawamsic fault, and thus, the Potomac and Chopawamsic terranes in central Virginia. Our study reveals local textural and minor geochronologic variations in the Ellisville pluton, whereas composition and geochemistry are mostly homogenous throughout the body. These data, along with 1:24,000 scale mapping, collectively confirm that the Ellisville pluton stitches the Potomac and Chopawamsic terranes across the Chopawamsic fault. New U-Pb zircon geochronological analyses yield ages of ca. 444 Ma and ca. 437 Ma, and indicate that the latest significant movement of the fault occurred before a 443.7 -3.3 Ma main phase of magmatism present throughout the Ellisville pluton. These dates, with previously determined crystallization ages from the Chopawamsic terrane, constrain significant movement on the Chopawamsic fault to a ca. 10 million year interval in the Late Ordovician between ca. 453 to 444 Ma. Whether the accretion of the Chopawamsic terrane involved the closing of either a back-Arc seaway or a global ocean has yet to be determined; however, based on its timing and kinematic nature, we suggest that the development of the Chopawamsic fault may be related to the Late Ordovician to Early Silurian Cherokee orogeny.

altmetric score

  • 0.85

author list (cited authors)

  • Hughes, K. S., Hibbard, J. P., & Miller, B. V.

citation count

  • 5

publication date

  • June 2013