A vast area of the northeastern Great Basin of the western USA was inundated by a succession of Plio-Pleistocene lakes, including Lake Bonneville (28 ka to 12 ka). The Pilot Valley playa, located just east of the Utah-Nevada border near Wendover, Utah, within the eastern Basin and Range Province, represents an 8 to 16 km wide and ~50 km long remnant of these lakes. The playa corresponds to the upper surface of a closed basin that is delimited by two mountain ranges, which are mantled by recent alluvial fans over which the playa sediments have prograded. In order to investigate the interaction of Plio- Pleistocene lake sedimentation and alluvial fan development, high-resolution seismic reflection profiles have been acquired near the base of both the west-bounding and the east-bounding ranges. On the western side of the basin, the seismic profiles provide images of sub-horizontal playa sediments prograding over the inclined alluvial fans. Theboundary between the playa and fan sediments is marked by a prominent angular unconformity. Seismic images from the eastern side of the basin reveal a markedly different structural and stratigraphic style with down-to-the-basin normal faulting of relatively shallow Paleozoic bedrock overlain by alluvial fan deposits, which are in turn on-lapped by a thin veneer of playa sediments. The results contained herein reveal for the first time the stratigraphic relationships between Quaternary pluvial sediments as a shoreline depositional facies and the adjacent bounding fan deposits. Post-stack reprocessing of lower-resolution but deeper penetration seismic data located in an analogous basin to the southwest, provides a likely context for the Pilot Valley seismic data. The new geophysical images, when integrated with available geologic mapping and limited well control, aid in constraining how deep aquifers are locally recharged from an adjacent range. The results also clearly demonstrate the strong structural asymmetry of the range and playa system, which is consistent with a classic half-graben structure. Lastly, this study demonstrates the utility of the shallow seismic reflection method as a tool to provide high-resolution sub-surface images in the geophysically challenging environment of Basin and Range geology.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Geological Sciences



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Pilot Valley, seismic reflection, geophysics, high-resolution p-wave, playa, alluvial fan, asymmetric graben, graben, Lake Bonneville, Basin and Range

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Geology Commons