Sub-crop geologic map of pre-Tertiary rocks in the Yucca Flat and northern Frenchman Flat areas, Nevada Test Site, southern Nevada

Open-File Report 97-678

Prepared in cooperation with the Nevada Operations Office U.S. Department of Energy (Interagency Agreement DE-AI08-96NV11967)
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This map displays interpreted structural and stratigraphic relations among the Paleozoic and older rocks of the Nevada Test Site region beneath the Miocene volcanic rocks and younger alluvium in the Yucca Flat and northern Frenchman Flat basins. These interpretations are based on a comprehensive examination and review of data for more than 77 drillholes that penetrated part of the pre-Tertiary basement beneath these post-middle Miocene structural basins. Biostratigraphic data from conodont fossils were newly obtained for 31 of these holes, and a thorough review of all prior microfossil paleontologic data is incorporated in the analysis. Subsurface relationships are interpreted in light of a revised regional geologic framework synthesized from detailed geologic mapping in the ranges surrounding Yucca Flat, from comprehensive stratigraphic studies in the region, and from additional detailed field studies on and around the Nevada Test Site.

All available data indicate the subsurface geology of Yucca Flat is considerably more complicated than previous interpretations have suggested. The western part of the basin, in particular, is underlain by relics of the eastward-vergent Belted Range thrust system that are folded back toward the west and thrust by local, west-vergent contractional structures of the CP thrust system. Field evidence from the ranges surrounding the north end of Yucca Flat indicate that two significant strike-slip faults track southward beneath the post-middle Miocene basin fill, but their subsurface traces cannot be closely defined from the available evidence. In contrast, the eastern part of the Yucca Flat basin is interpreted to be underlain by a fairly simple north-trending, broad syncline in the pre-Tertiary units. Far fewer data are available for the northern Frenchman Flat basin, but regional analysis indicates the pre- Tertiary structure there should also be relatively simple and not affected by thrusting.

This new interpretation has implications for ground water flow through pre-Tertiary rocks beneath the Yucca Flat and northern Frenchman Flat areas, and has consequences for ground water modeling and model validation. Our data indicate that the Mississippian Chainman Shale is not a laterally extensive confining unit in the western part of the basin because it is folded back onto itself by the convergent structures of the Belted Range and CP thrust systems. Early and Middle Paleozoic limestone and dolomite are present beneath most of both basins and, regardless of structural complications, are interpreted to form a laterally continuous and extensive carbonate aquifer. Structural culmination that marks the French Peak accommodation zone along the topographic divide between the two basins provides a lateral pathway through highly fractured rock between the volcanic aquifers of Yucca Flat and the regional carbonate aquifer. This pathway may accelerate the migration of ground-water contaminants introduced by underground nuclear testing toward discharge areas beyond the Nevada Test Site boundaries. Predictive three-dimensional models of hydrostratigraphic units and ground-water flow in the pre-Tertiary rocks of subsurface Yucca Flat are likely to be unrealistic due to the extreme structural complexities. The interpretation of hydrologic and geochemical data obtained from monitoring wells will be difficult to extrapolate through the flow system until more is known about the continuity of hydrostratigraphic units.

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USGS Numbered Series
Sub-crop geologic map of pre-Tertiary rocks in the Yucca Flat and northern Frenchman Flat areas, Nevada Test Site, southern Nevada
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey
Report: ii, 24 p.; Plate: 32.55 x 41.15 inches
United States