Gravity and aeromagnetic data provide insights into the subsurface lithology and structure of the Virgin River Depression (VRD) of Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. The gravity data indicate that the Quaternary and Tertiary sedimentary deposits hide a complex pre-Cenozoic surface. A north-northwest-trending basement ridge separates the Mesquite and Mormon basins, as evidenced by seismic-reflection, gravity, and aeromagnetic data. The Mesquite basin is very deep, reaching depths of 8?10 km. The Mormon basin reaches thicknesses of 5 km. Its northern margin is very steep and may be characterized by right steps, although this interpretation could change with additional gravity stations. Most of the young (Quaternary), small-displacement faults trend within 10? of due north and occur within the deeper parts of the Mesquite basin north of the Virgin River. South of the Virgin River, only a few, young, small-displacement faults are mapped; the trend of these faults is more northeasterly and parallels the basement topography and is distinct from that of the faults to the north. The Virgin River appears to follow the margin of the basin as it emerges from the plateau.
The high-resolution aeromagnetic data outline the extent of shallow volcanic rocks in the Mesquite basin. The north-northwest alignment of volcanic rocks east of Toquop Wash appear to be structurally controlled because of faults imaged on seismic-reflection profiles and because the alignment is nearly perpendicular to the direction of Cenozoic extension. More buried volcanics likely exist to the north and east of the high-resolution aeromagnetic survey. Broader aeromagnetic anomalies beneath pre-Cenozoic basement in the Mormon Mountains and Tule Springs Hills reflect either Precambrian basement or Tertiary intrusions. These rocks are probably barriers to groundwater flow, except where fractured.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Geophysical constraints on the Virgin River Depression, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona
U.S. Geological Survey
Geology, Minerals, Energy and Geophysics Science Center