Postglacial volcanic deposits at Glacier Peak, Washington, and potential hazards from future eruptions; a preliminary report

Open-File Report 82-830




Eruptions and other geologic events at Glacier Peak volcano in northern Washington have repeatedly affected areas near the volcano as well as areas far downwind and downstream. This report describes the evidence of this activity preserved in deposits on the west and east flanks of the volcano. On the west side of Glacier Peak the oldest postglacial deposit is a large, clayey mudflow which traveled at least 35 km down the White Chuck River valley sometime after 14,000 years ago. Subsequent large explosive eruptions produced lahars and at least 10 pyroclastic-flow deposits, including a semiwelded vitric tuff in the White Chuck River valley. These deposits, known collectively as the White Chuck assemblage, form a valley fill which is locally preserved as far as 100 km downstream from the volcano in the Stillaguamish River valley. At least some of the assemblage is about 11,670-11,500 radiocarbon years old. A small clayey lahar, containing reworked blocks of the vitric tuff, subsequently traveled at least 15 km down the White Chuck River. This lahar is overlain by lake sediments containing charred wood which is about 5,500 years old. A 150-m-thick assemblage of pyroclastic-flow deposits and lahars, called the Kennedy Creek assemblage, is in part about 5,500-5,100 radiocarbon years old. Lithic lahars from this assemblage extend at least 100 km downstream in the Skagit River drainage. The younger lahar assemblages, each containing at least three lahars and reaching at least 18 km downstream from Glacier Peak in the White Chuck River valley, are about 2,800 and 1,800 years old, respectively. These are postdated by a lahar containing abundant oxyhornblende dacite, which extends at least 30 km to the Sauk River. A still younger lahar assemblage that contains at least five lahars, and that also extends at least 30 km to the Sauk River, is older than a mature forest growing on its surface. At least one lahar and a flood deposit form a low terrace at the confluence of the White Chuck and Sauk Rivers, and were deposited before 300 years ago, but more recently than about 1,800 years ago. Several small outburst floods, including one in 1975, have affected Kennedy and Baekos Creek and the upper White Chuck River in the last hundred years. East of Glacier Peak the oldest postglacial deposits consist of ash-cloud deposits that underlie tephra erupted by Glacier Peak between 12,750 and 11,250 radiocarbon years ago. Although pyroclastic-flow deposits correlative with the ash-cloud deposits have not been recognized, late Pleistocene pumiceous lahars extend at least 50 km downstream in the Suiattle River valley. A younger clayey mudflow extends at least 6 km down Dusty Creek. This lahar is overlain by deposits of lithic pyroclastic flows and lahars that form the Dusty assemblage. This assemblage is at least 300 m thick in the upper valleys of Dusty and Chocolate Creeks, and contains more than 10 km3 of lithic debris. Lahars derived from the Dusty assemblage extend at least 100 km down the Skagit River valley from Glacier Peak. This assemblage is younger than tephra layer 0 from Mount Mazama, and older than tephra layer Yn from Mount St. Helens, and thus was formed between about 7,000 and 3,400 years ago. The Dusty assemblage may have been formed at the same time as the Kennedy Creek assemblage. A 100-m-thick assemblage of pyroclastic flows and lahars preserved in the Chocolate Creek valley is about 1,800 radiocarbon years old. A clayey lahar in the upper Chocolate Creek valley extended at least 2 km downvalley after 1,800 years ago, but before pyroclastic flows and lahars were deposited in upper Chocolate Creek 1,100 radiocarbon years ago. Several clayey lahars in the Dusty Creek valley east of Glacier Peak are also about 1,100 years old. A lahar in the valley of Dusty Creek, which contains rare prismatically jointed blocks of vesiculated dacite, and a white ash that is locally as much as 50 cm thick may be the products of small

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Postglacial volcanic deposits at Glacier Peak, Washington, and potential hazards from future eruptions; a preliminary report
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey,
81 p., ill., maps ;28 cm.