The Smoke Creek Desert, located approximately 100 km (60 mi) north of Reno near the California-Nevada border, is a large basin situated along the northernmost parts of the Walker Lane Belt (Stewart, 1988), a physiographic province defined by northwest-striking topographic features and strike-slip faulting. Because geologic framework studies play an important role in understanding the hydrology of the Smoke Creek Desert, a geologic and geophysical effort was begun to help determine basin geometry, infer structural features, and estimate depth to Pre-Cenozoic rocks, or basement.
In May and June of 2004, and June of 2005, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) collected 587 new gravity stations, more than 160 line-kilometers (100 line-miles) of truck-towed magnetometer data, and 111 rock property samples in the Smoke Creek Desert and vicinity in northwest Nevada, as part of an effort to characterize its hydrogeologic framework. In the Smoke Creek Desert area, gravity highs occur over rocks of the Skedaddle Mountains, Fox Range, Granite Range, and over portions of Tertiary volcanic rocks in the Buffalo Hills. These gravity highs likely reflect basement rocks, either exposed at the surface or buried at shallow depths. The southern Smoke Creek Desert corresponds to a 25-mGal isostatic gravity low, which corresponds with a basin depth of approximately 2 km.
Magnetic highs are likely due to granitic, andesitic, and metavolcanic rocks, whereas magnetic lows are probably associated with less magnetic gneiss and metasedimentary rocks in the region. Three distinctive patterns of magnetic anomalies occur throughout the Smoke Creek Desert and Squaw Creek Valley, likely reflecting three different geological and structural settings.
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USGS Numbered Series
Gravity, magnetic, and physical property data in the Smoke Creek Desert area, northwest Nevada