This report briefly describes the geology of an area of about 750 square miles in Jefferson, Wasco, Crook, and Wheeler Counties, Oregon. About 16,000 feet of strata that range in age from pre-Tertiary to Quaternary are exposed. These include the following units: pre-Tertiary slate, graywacke, conglomerate, and meta-andesite; Clarno Formation of Eocene age - lava flows, volcanic breccia, tuff, and tuffaceous mudstone, chiefly of andesitic composition; John Day Formation of late Oligocene and early Miocene age - pyroclastic rocks, flows, and domes, chiefly of rhyolitic composition; Columbia River Basalt of middle Miocene age - thick, columnar jointed flows of very fine grained dense dark-gray basalt; Dalles Formation of Pliocene age - bedded tuffaceous sandstone, siltstone, and conglomerate; basalt of Pliocene or Pleistocene age - lava flows of porous-textured olivine basalt; and Quaternary loess, landslide debris, and alluvium. Unconformities separate pre-Tertiary rocks and Clarno Formation, Clarno and John Day Formations, John Day Formation and Columbia River Basalt, and Columbia River Basalt and Dalles Formation.
The John Day Formation, the only unit studied in detail, consists of about 4,000 feet of tuff, lapilli tuff, strongly to weakly welded rhyolite ash flows, and less abundant trachyandesite flows and rhyolite flows and domes. The formation was divided into nine mappable members in part of the area, primarily on the basis of distinctive ledge-forming welded ash-flow sheets. Most of the sheets are composed of stony rhyolite containing abundant lithophysae and sparse phenocrysts. One sheet contains 10 to 20 percent phenocrysts, mostly cryptoperthitic soda sanidine, but including less abundant quartz, myrmekitic intergrowths of quartz and sanidine, and oligoclase. The rhyolitic ash flows and lava flows were extruded from nearby vents, in contrast to some of the interbedded air-fall tuff and lapilli tuff of dacitic and andesitic composition that may have been derived from vents in an ancestral Cascade Range. The John Day is dated on the basis of a late Oligocene flora near the base of the formation and early Miocene faunas near the top of the formation.
The middle Miocene and older rocks in the Antelope-Ashwood area are broadly folded and broken along northeast-trending faults. Over much of the area the rocks dip gently eastward from the crest of a major fold and are broken along a series of steeply dipping antithetic strike faults. Pliocene and Quaternary strata appear to be undeformed.
At the Priday agate deposit, chalcedony-filled spherulites (thunder-eggs) occur in the lower part of a weakly welded rhyolitic ash flow. The so-called thunder-eggs are small spheroidal bodies, about 3 inches in average diameter; each consists of a chalcedonic core surrounded by a shell of welded tuff that is altered to radially oriented fibers of cristobalite and alkalic feldspar.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Geologic Reconnaissance of the Antelope-Ashwood Area, North-Central Oregon: With Emphasis on the John Day Formation of Late Oligocene and Early Miocene Age