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Walker Lake, Nevada, is in an active fault-controlled basin related to the right-lateral, northwest-trending Walker Lane Shear Zone on the western side of the Basin and Range province. The lake occurs in a half graben bounded on its west side by a high-angle normal fault zone along the Wassuk Range front. This fault zone may merge to the north into the Walker Lane fault system, which forms the northeast boundary of the basin. To the south of Walker Lake, the Wassuk front fault merges with an east-northeast trending left-lateral fault. The Walker Lake basin is interpreted to be a pull-apart basin formed within the triangular zone bounded by the Wassuk front, the Walker Lane, and left-lateral faults.
The Walker River drainage basin occupies about 10,000 km2 (3,800 mi2) in western Nevada and parts of California and is essentially a closed hydrologic system that drains from the crest of the Sierra Nevada in California and terminates in Walker Lake. Walker Lake trends north-northwest and is 27.4 km (17 mi) long and 8 km (5 mi) wide with water depths exceeding 30 m (100 ft). Lake Lahontan (Wisconsinian) shorelines ring Walker Lake and suggest water depths of 150 m (500 ft) above the present lake level. The lake is situated in an asymmetric basin with steep alluvial fans flanking the western shoreline (Wassuk Range) and gentle, areally more extensive fans flanking the eastern shoreline (Gillis Range). The Walker River delta enters the lake from the north and is a ajor sediment point source for the basin. Older dissected shoreline, alluvial fan, Gilbert delta, and beach ridge deposits were built largely of coarse-grained, locally derived materials. Stromatolites, oncolites, and tufas formed along the shorelines, whereas mud and organic sediments accumulated in the lake on the west side of the basin. Extensive submerged sand flats and local sand dunes occur on the east side of the basin.
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