During the late Quarternary, the elevation of terrace cutting and carbonate deposition in the Pyramid Lake subbasin were controlled by constancy of lake level imposed by spill to adjoining subbasins. Sill elevations are 1177-1183 m (Mud Lake Slough Sill), 1207 m (Emerson Pass Sill), and 1265 m (Darwin Pass Sill). Carbonate deposition was favored by: (1) hydrologic closure, (2) proximity to a source of calcium, (3) elevated water temperature, and (4) a solid substrate. The thickness and aspect of tufa are a function oflake-level dynamics. Relatively thin sheets and pendant sheets were deposited during a rising or falling lake. The upper parts of thick reef-form tufas have a horizontal aspect and were deposited in a lake which was stabilized by spill to the Carson Desert subbasin. The lower parts of the reef-form tufas are thinner and their outer surface has a vertical aspect, indicating that the lower part formed in a receding lake. The thickest and most complete sequences of tufa are mounds that border the Pyramid Lake shore. The tops of the tallest mounds reach the elevation of the Darwin Pass Sill and many mounds have been eroded to the elevations of the Mud Lake Slough Sill of the Emerson Pass Sill. The sequence of tufa formation (from oldest to youngest) displayed in these mounds is: (1) a beachrock containing carbonate-cemented volcanic cobbles, (2) broken and eroded old spheroids that contain thinolitic tufa and an outer rind of dense laminated tufa, (3) large cylindrical (tubular) tufas capped by (4) coatings of old dense tufas, and (5) several generations of old branching tufa commonly associated with thin, platy tufas and coatings of thinolitic tufa, (6) young spheroids that contain poorly oriented young thinolitic tufa in the center and several generations of radially oriented young thinolitic tufas near the outer edge, (7) a transitional thinolite-to-branching tufa, (8) two or more layers of young branching tufa, (9) a 0.5-cm-thick layer of fine-grained dolomite, (10) a 2-cm-thick layer of young dense laminated tufa, (11) a 0.1-cm-thick layer of encrusting tufa that was covered by a beach deposit and (12) a 1.0-cm-thick layer of porous encrusting tufa that coated the beach deposit and the sides of tufa mounds. The elevational ranges of the principal varieties of tufa are not related to terrace or spill elevations. It seems likely that the distribution of tufa varieties is related to variation in the thermal structure or chemistry of Lake Lahontan. It is hypothesized that the thinolitic tufa (ikaite) formed in the near freezing hypolimnion and the braching tufa (calcite) formed in the seasonally warmer epiliminion of the lake. ?? 1994.
Additional publication details
Carbonate deposition, Pyramid Lake subbasin, Nevada: 1. Sequence of formation and elevational distribution of carbonate deposits (Tufas)