The Pliocene Lost River found to west: Detrital zircon evidence of drainage disruption along a subsiding hotspot track

Mary K.V. Hodges, Paul Karl Link*, C. Mark Fanning

*Corresponding author for this work

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    10 Citations (Scopus)


    SHRIMP analysis of U/Pb ages of detrital zircons in twelve late Miocene to Pleistocene sand samples from six drill cores on the Snake River Plain (SRP), Idaho, suggests that an ancestral Lost River system was drained westward along the northern side of the SRP. Neoproterozoic (650 to 740 Ma, Cryogenian) detrital zircon grains from the Wildhorse Creek drainage of the Pioneer Mountains core complex, with a source in 695 Ma orthogneiss, and which are characteristic of the Big Lost River system, are found in Pliocene sand from cores drilled in the central SRP (near Wendell) and western SRP (at Mountain Home). In addition to these Neoproterozoic grains, fluvial sands sourced from the northern margin of the SRP contain detrital zircons with the following ages: 42 to 52 Ma from the Challis magmatic belt, 80 to 100 Ma from the Atlanta lobe of the Idaho batholith, and mixed Paleozoic and Proterozoic ages (1400 to 2000 Ma). In contrast, sands in the Mountain Home Air Base well (MHAB) that contain 155-Ma Jurassic detrital grains with a source in northern Nevada are interpreted to represent an integrated Snake River, with provenance on the southern, eastern and northern sides of the SRP. We propose that late Pliocene and early Pleistocene construction of basaltic volcanoes and rhyolitic domes of the Axial Volcanic Zone of the eastern SRP and the northwest-trending Arco Volcanic Rift Zone (including the Craters of the Moon volcanic center), disrupted the paleo-Lost River drainage, confining it to the Big Lost Trough, a volcanically dammed basin of internal drainage on the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). After the Axial Volcanic Zone and Arco Volcanic Rift Zone were constructed to form a volcanic eruptive and intrusive highland to the southwest, sediment from the Big Lost River was trapped in the Big Lost Trough instead of being delivered by surface streams to the western SRP. Today, water from drainages north of the SRP enters the Snake River Plain regional aquifer through sinks in the Big Lost Trough, and the water resurfaces at Thousand Springs, Idaho, about 195 km to the southwest. Holocene to latest Pliocene samples from drill core in the Big Lost Trough reveal interplay between the glacio-fluvial outwash of the voluminous Big Lost River system and the relatively minor Little Lost River system. A mixed provenance signature is recognized in fine-grained sands deposited in a highstand of a Pleistocene pluvial-lake system.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)237-249
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
    Issue number1-3
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2009


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