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The basin fill beneath the Sevier Desert of western Utah contains evaporites of late Oligocene age that were deposited in a broad closed basin. All of the basin fill penetrated by the Gulf Oil 1 Gronning (2,458 m TD), one of only three deep holes in the basin, contains abundant volcanic detritus and its alteration products of Cenozoic age, when volcanism was intense in western Utah. Fission-track dating of tuffaceous sandstone, interbedded with evaporite minerals and representative of sandstone in the lower formations penetrated, yields ages of 26 to 28 m.y.; concordance of ages indicates no thermal resetting. Fossil pollen from mudstone in the evaporite-bearing strata includes forms no older than late Oligocene, in good agreement with the fission-track ages. Thus the age of the evaporites, and of all the basin fill penetrated by drilling, is late Oligocene and younger; previous work had assigned them ages ranging from Triassic to Eocene.
Evaporite-bearing rocks were deposited during late Oligocene time in a broad closed basin under arid or semiarid conditions much like those of the Great Basin today. Anhydrite is present throughout approximately 900 m of volcaniclastic rocks in the lower part of the section cut by the Gulf hole, and more than 1,500 m of anhydrite and halite is present in possibly equivalent strata in the nearby Argonaut dry hole. Fossil pollen from anhydrite-bearing rocks in the Gulf hole are indicative of an arid to semiarid flora, including plants similar to Mormon tea and possibly saltbush or buffalo berry. Evaporite minerals formed in the basin during dry periods; tuff was erupted from nearby volcanic centers, reworked by water, and deposited in the basin.
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