Progressive Construction of Laccolithic Intrusive Centers: Henry Mountains, Utah, U.S.A

  • Eric HorsmanEmail author
  • Robert J. Broda
  • Nathan Z. Gwyn
  • Elizabeth A. Maurer
  • Erik D. Thornton
  • Mitchell T. Ward
Part of the Advances in Volcanology book series (VOLCAN)


The intrusions of the Henry Mountains of southern Utah provide an exceptional setting for the study of igneous emplacement processes in the shallow crust. The five separate intrusive centers intruded the flat-lying stratigraphy of the Colorado Plateau at 2–4 km depth. The intrusions are Oligocene in age and postdate the minor Laramide orogenic activity that affected this part of the Colorado Plateau. These intrusions can therefore be interpreted as having formed through purely magmatic processes, with no tectonic involvement or modification. Each of the five separate intrusive centers in the Henry Mountains preserves a different stage in the evolution of an igneous system constructed in the shallow crust. Each intrusive center is comprised of numerous small intrusive bodies surrounding a large laccolithic body assembled from several magma pulses. Collectively, the five intrusive centers provide a series of snapshots of the progressive growth of an igneous system in the shallow crust. A compilation of data from these intrusive centers allows development of a generalized model for progressive construction of a magmatic system in the shallow crust. This model involves three main stages. First, an early network of dikes and sills is intruded. Second, a relatively voluminous laccolithic central igneous body begins to form. The central laccolith may initiate though inflation of a sill that grew to a radius sufficient to lift the overburden, as hypothesized in traditional growth models. However, field evidence suggests progressive laccolith growth in the Henry Mountains involved numerous rapidly emplaced magma pulses separated by periods of no appreciable activity. In the final stage, satellite intrusions, many with a tongue-like geometry, are emplaced radially outward from the margin of the main laccolith, initiating in the lower hinge region where bending and fracturing of overburden is most intense. The step-wise assembly of these intrusive centers from multiple discrete pulses of magma calls into question the applicability of theoretical models of laccolith growth that presuppose the entire intrusion remains in a liquid state throughout the full emplacement history.


Laccolith Sill Emplacement Pluton Magmatism 



The authors are very appreciative for the helpful reviews of this manuscript provided by Christoph Breitkreuz and Christopher Henry. Funding for this work was provided by National Science Foundation grant EAR-1220318 and the U.S. Geological Survey EDMAP program to EH. Additional funding was provided by Geological Society of America Student Research Grants to EM and MW, and Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research to NG and ET. Many thanks for helpful conversations are due to Michel de Saint Blanquat, Sven Morgan, Scott Giorgis, Thierry Menand, and Paul Wetmore.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric Horsman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert J. Broda
    • 1
  • Nathan Z. Gwyn
    • 1
  • Elizabeth A. Maurer
    • 1
  • Erik D. Thornton
    • 1
  • Mitchell T. Ward
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesEast Carolina UniversityGreenvilleUSA

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