Rainier Mesa--site of the first series of underground nuclear detonations--is the highest of a group of ridges and mesas within the Nevada Test Site. The mesa is about 9.5 square miles in area and reaches a maximum altitude of 7,679 feet. The mesa is underlain by welded tuff, friable-bedded tuff, and zeolitized-bedded tuff of the Piapi Canyon Group and the Indian Trail Formation of Tertiary age. The tuff--2,000 to 9,000 feet thick--rests unconformably upon thrust-faulted miogeosynclinal rocks of Paleozoic age.
Zeolitic-bedded tuff at the base of the tuff sequence controls the recharge rate of ground water to the underlying and more permeable Paleozoic aquifers. The zeolitic tuff--600 to 800 feet thick--is a fractured aquitard with high interstitial porosity, but with very low interstitial permeability and fracture transmissibility. The interstitial porosity ranges from 29 to 38 percent, the interstitial permeability is generally less than 0.009 gpd/ft3, and the fracture transmissibility ranges from 10 to 100 gpd/ft for 900 feet of saturated rock. The tuff is generally fully saturated interstitially hundreds of feet above the regional water table, yet no appreciable volume of water moves through the interstices because of the very low permeability. The only freely moving water observed in miles of underground workings occurred in fractures, usually fault zones.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Perched Ground Water in Zeolitized-Bedded Tuff, Rainier Mesa and Vicinity, Nevada Test Site, Nevada