Geologic Map of the Cascade Head Area, Northwestern Oregon Coast Range (Neskiwin, Nestucca Bay, Hebo, and Dolph 7.5 minute Quadrangles)

Open-File Report 96-534

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The geology of the Cascade Head area bridges the geology in the Tillamook Highlands to the north (Wells and others, 1994; 1995) with that of the Newport Embayment on the south (Snavely and others, 1976 a,b,c). The four 7.5-minute quadrangles (Neskowin, Nestucca Bay, Hebo, and Dolph) which comprise the Cascade Head area include significant stratigraphic, structural, and igneous data that are essential in unraveling the geology of the northern and central part of the Oregon Coast Range and of the adjacent continental shelf

Earlier studies (Snavely and Vokes, 1949) were of a broad reconnaissance nature because of limited access in this rugged, densely forested part of the Siuslaw National Forest. Also, numerous thick sills of late middle Eocene diabase and middle Miocene basalt mask the Eocene stratigraphic relationships. Previous mapping was hampered by a lack of precise biostratigraphic data. However, recent advances in biostratigraphy and radiometric age dating and geochemistry have provided the necessary tools to decipher stratigraphic and structural relationships in the Eocene sedimentary and volcanic rock sequences (W.W. Rau, personal communication, 1978 to 1988; Bukry and Snavely, 1988). 

Many important stratigraphic and igneous relationships are displayed within the Casacde Head area:

(1) turbidite sandstone of the middle Eocene Tyee Formation, which is widespread in the central and southern part of the Oregon Coast Range (Snavely and others, 1964), was not deposited in the western part of the Cascade Head, and is of limited extent north of the map area (Wells and others, 1994);

(2) the late middle Eocene Yamhill Formation, which crops out along the west and east flank of the Oregon Coast Range, overlaps older strata and overlies an erosional unconformity on the lower Eocene Siletz River Volcanics (Snavely and others, 1990; 1991);

(3) thick sills of late middle Eocene diabase (43 Ma) are widespread in the Cascade Head area and also form much of the eastern flank of the Tillamook Highlands (Wells and others, 1994), but are rare south of the map area;

(4) Cascade Head is the northernmost eruptive center of late Eocene alkalic basalts--85 km north of the eruptive center of correlative alkalic flows of the Yachats Basalt in the Newport Embayment (Snavely and Vokes, 1949; Snavely and others, 1990; Barnes and Barnes, 1992; Davis and others, 1995); 

(5) early Oligocene (33 Ma) sills and dikes of nepheline syenite and camptonite present in the Newport Embayment (Snavely and Wagner, 1961) are not found in the Cascade Head area;

(6) extensive middle Oligocene (30 Ma) granophyric gabbro sills that are widespread in the central part of the Oregon Coast Range (Snavely and Wagner, 1961; MacLeod, 1969) are not present in the Cascade Head area.

The Cascade Head area is the last segment of the Oregon Coast to receive detailed geologic mapping. Increased logging operations in the 1970's and 1980's created numerous new roadcut exposures and access to exposures in stream beds. More importantly, microfossil biostratigraphic control, available since 1970, based upon foraminifer determinations by W.W. Rau and nannofossil determinations by David Bukry provided critical information on stratigraphic succession as well as on depositional environments of the deep water (bathyal) siltstone units present in much of the Cascade Head area. These paleontologic data also permitted correlations with other sedimentary sequences mapped in the Newport Embayment and in the Tillamook Highlands as well as in western Washington. 

New 7.5-minute topographic maps and aerial photographs which became available in the late 1980's provided detailed topography which can be related to the distribution of thick sills and broad landslide areas, as well as a precise geographic relationship of geologic observations in this densely forested and brush-covered terrain.

New geographic information systems (GIS) technology has produced a digitized color map of the Cascade Head area that combines the four 7.5-minute quadrangles that previously were open-filed as separate black and white 7.5-minute quadrangles (Snavely and others, 1990; 1990a; 1991; 1993).

The tectonic framework and stratigraphic architecture presented on the map of the Cascade Head area was obtained by classic geologic field methods. This information could have been obtained only through detailed observation and sampling along stream beds, road cuts, and outcrops. Remote sensing techniques were of minor help in unraveling the geology in this poorly exposed and complex terrain, a terrain that characterizes much of the Oregon and Washington Coast Ranges.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Geologic Map of the Cascade Head Area, Northwestern Oregon Coast Range (Neskiwin, Nestucca Bay, Hebo, and Dolph 7.5 minute Quadrangles)
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Report: 16 p.; 2 Plates: 44.86 x 26.85 inches and 45.27 x 28.60 inches
United States
Other Geospatial:
Cascade Head area
North American Datum of 1927