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The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

Utah Geological Association


Geology and Geologic Resources and Issues of Western Utah, 2009
Pages 271-286

Geophysical Setting of Western Utah and Eastern Nevada Between Latitudes 37°45′ and 40°N

Edward A. Mankinen, Edwin H. McKee


Gravity and aeromagnetic data refine the structural setting for the region of western Utah and eastern Nevada between Snake and Hamlin Valleys on the west and Tule Valley on the east. These data are used here as part of a regional analysis. An isostatic gravity map shows large areas underlain by gravity lows, the most prominent of which is a large semi-circular low associated with the Indian Peak caldera complex in the southwestern part of the study area. Another low underlies the Thomas caldera in the northeast, and linear lows elsewhere indicate low-density basin-fill in all major north-trending graben valleys. Gravity highs reflect pre-Cenozoic rocks mostly exposed in the mountain ranges. In the Confusion Range, however, the gravity high extends about 15 km east of the range front to Coyote Knolls, indicating a broad pediment cut on upper Paleozoic rocks and covered by a thin veneer of alluvium. Aeromagnetic highs sharply delineate Oligocene and Miocene volcanic rocks and intracaldera plutons associated with the Indian Peak caldera complex and the Pioche–Marysvale igneous belt. Jurassic to Eocene plutons and volcanic rocks elsewhere in the study area, however, have much more modest magnetic signatures. Some relatively small magnetic highs in the region are associated with outcrops of volcanic rock, and the continuation of those anomalies indicates that the rocks are probably extensive in the subsurface.

A gravity inversion method separating the isostatic gravity anomaly into fields representing pre-Cenozoic basement rocks and Cenozoic basin deposits was used to calculate depth to basement and estimate maximum amounts of alluvial and volcanic fill within the valleys. Maximum depths within the Indian Peak caldera complex average about 2.5 km, locally reaching 3 km. North of the caldera complex, thickness of valley fill in most graben valleys ranges from 1.5 to 3 km thick, with Hamlin and Pine Valleys averaging ~3 km. The main basin beneath Tule Valley is relatively shallow (~0.6 km), reaching a maximum depth of ~1 km over a small area northeast of Coyote Knolls. Maximum horizontal gradients were calculated for both long-wavelength gravity and magnetic-potential data, and these were used to constrain major density and magnetic lineaments. These lineaments help delineate deep-seated crustal structures that separate major tectonic domains, potentially localizing Cenozoic tectonic features that may control regional ground-water flow.

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