The largest fossil hydrothermal system occupying a 4500 km2 area in central Idaho is revealed by delta 18O studies. The remains of this meteoric-hydrothermal system are preserved within a sharply bounded, 15 km wide, 70-km-diameter annulus of low delta 18O rock (+2.0 to -8.8per mille) termed the Castro ring zone. The zone is centred on a less depleted (+4.5) core zone consisting of granitic rocks of the Castro pluton. This 700-km2 Eocene subvolcanic batholith has intruded, domed, and hydrothermally metamorphosed a thick sequence of Challis Volcanics, the stratigraphically low rocks in the 2000-km2 Van Horn Peak and the 1000-km2 Thunder Mountain cauldron complexes being most strongly altered. Less extreme 18O depletions occur in the youngest major ash-flow sheets of these complexes, indicating a vertical 18O gradient. Water/rock ratios of geothermal systems are surprisingly insensitive to the circulation scale.-L.-di H.