Major structural controls on the distribution of pre-Tertiary rocks, Nevada Test Site vicinity, southern Nevada

Open-File Report 97-533

Prepared in cooperation with the Nevada Operations Office U.S. Department of Energy (Interagency Agreement DE-AI08-96NV11967)



The lateral and vertical distributions of Proterozoic and Paleozoic sedimentary rocks in southern Nevada are the combined products of original stratigraphic relationships and post-depositional faults and folds. This map compilation shows the distribution of these pre-Tertiary rocks in the region including and surrounding the Nevada Test Site. It is based on considerable new evidence from detailed geologic mapping, biostratigraphic control, sedimentological analysis, and a review of regional map relationships.

Proterozoic and Paleozoic rocks of the region record paleogeographic transitions between continental shelf depositional environments on the east and deeper-water slopefacies depositional environments on the west. Middle Devonian and Mississippian sequences, in particular, show strong lateral facies variations caused by contemporaneous changes in the western margin of North America during the Antler orogeny. Sections of rock that were originally deposited in widely separated facies localities presently lie in close proximity. These spatial relationships chiefly result from major east- and southeastdirected thrusts that deformed the region in Permian or later time.

Somewhat younger contractional structures are identified within two irregular zones that traverse the region. These folds and thrusts typically verge toward the west and northwest and overprint the relatively simple pattern of the older contractional terranes. Local structural complications are significant near these younger structures due to the opposing vergence and due to irregularities in the previously folded and faulted crustal section.

Structural and stratigraphic discontinuities are identified on opposing sides of two north-trending fault zones in the central part of the compilation region north of Yucca Flat. The origin and significance of these zones are enigmatic because they are largely covered by Tertiary and younger deposits. These faults most likely result from significant lateral offset, most likely in the sinistral sense.

Low-angle normal faults that are at least older than Oligocene, and may pre-date Late Cretaceous time, are also present in the region. These faults are shown to locally displace blocks of pre-Tertiary rock by several kilometers. However, none of these structures can be traced for significant distances beyond its outcrop extent, and the inference is made that they do not exert regional influence on the distribution of pre-Tertiary rocks. The extensional strain accommodated by these low-angle normal faults appears to be local and highly irregular.

Study Area

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USGS Numbered Series
Major structural controls on the distribution of pre-Tertiary rocks, Nevada Test Site vicinity, southern Nevada
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey
Report: i, 18 p.; Plate: 37.88 x 50.87 inches
United States