Smoke Creek Desert
U.S. Geological Survey
Open-File Report 2006-1176 Version 1.0
Geophysical Investigations of the Smoke Creek Desert and their Geologic Implications, Northwest Nevada and Northeast California By David A. Ponce, Jonathan M.G. Glen, and Janet E. Tilden
The Smoke Creek Desert is a large basin about 100 km (60 mi) north of Reno near the California-Nevada border, situated along the northernmost parts of the Walker Lane Belt, a physiographic region defined by diverse topographic expression consisting of northweststriking topographic features and strike-slip faulting. Because geologic and geophysical framework studies play an important role in understanding the hydrogeology of the Smoke Creek Desert, a geophysical effort was undertaken to help determine basin geometry, infer structural features, and estimate depth to basement.
In the northernmost parts of the Smoke Creek Desert basin, along Squaw Creek Valley, geophysical data indicate that the basin is shallow and that granitic rocks are buried at shallow depths throughout the valley. These granitic rocks are faulted and fractured and presumably permeable, and thus may influence ground-water resources in this area.
The Smoke Creek Desert basin itself is composed of three large oval sub-basins, all of which reach depths to basement of up to about 2 km (1.2 mi). In the central and southern parts of the Smoke Creek Desert basin, magnetic anomalies form three separate and narrow EW-striking features. These features consist of high-amplitude short-wavelength magnetic anomalies and probably reflect Tertiary basalt buried at shallow depth. In the central part of the Smoke Creek Desert basin a prominent EW-striking gravity and magnetic prominence extends from the western margin of the basin to the central part of the basin. Along this ridge, probably composed of Tertiary basalt, overlying unconsolidated basin-fill deposits are relatively thin (< 400 m).
The central part of the Smoke Creek Desert basin is also characterized by the Mid-valley fault, a continuous geologic and geophysical feature striking NS and at least 18-km long, possibly connecting with faults mapped in the Terraced Hills and continuing southward to Pyramid Lake. The Mid-valley fault may represent a lateral (east-west) barrier to ground-water flow. In addition, the Mid-valley fault may also be a conduit for along-strike (north-south) ground-water flow, channeling flow to the southernmost parts of the basin and the discharge areas north of Sand Pass.
U.S. Geological Survey
Open-File Report 2006-1197 Version 1.0
Gravity, Magnetic, and Physical Property Data in the Smoke Creek Desert Area, Northwest Nevada
By Janet E. Tilden, David A. Ponce, Jonathan M.G. Glen, Bruce A Chuchel, Kira Tushman, and Alison Duvall
The Smoke Creek Desert, located approximately 100 km (60 mi) north of Reno near the California-Nevada border, is a large basin situated along the northernmost parts of the Walker Lane Belt, a physiographic province defined by northwest-striking topographic features and strike-slip faulting. Because geologic framework studies play an important role in understanding the hydrology of the Smoke Creek Desert, a geologic and geophysical effort was begun to help determine basin geometry, infer structural features, and estimate depth to Pre-Cenozoic rocks, or basement.
In May and June of 2004, and June of 2005, the U.S. Geological Survey collected 587 new gravity stations, more than 160 line-kilometers (100 line-miles) of truck-towed magnetometer data, and 111 rock property samples in the Smoke Creek Desert and vicinity in northwest Nevada, as part of an effort to characterize its hydrogeologic framework. In the Smoke Creek Desert area, gravity highs occur over rocks of the Skedaddle Mountains, Fox Range, Granite Range, and over portions of Tertiary volcanic rocks in the Buffalo Hills. These gravity highs likely reflect basement rocks, either exposed at the surface or buried at shallow depths. The southern Smoke Creek Desert corresponds to a 25-mGal isostatic gravity low, which corresponds with a basin depth of approximately 2 km.
Magnetic highs are likely due to granitic, andesitic, and metavolcanic rocks, whereas magnetic lows are probably associated with less magnetic gneiss and metasedimentary rocks in the region. Three distinctive patterns of magnetic anomalies occur throughout the Smoke Creek Desert and Squaw Creek Valley, likely reflecting three different geological and structural settings.