The upper Grande Ronde River basin is a 1,400-square-mile area in northeastern Oregon, between the Blue Mountains to the west and the Wallowa Mountains to the east. The area is drained by the Grande Ronde River, which flows northeast through this region and is tributary to the Snake River.
The climate is generally moderate; temperature extremes recorded at La Grande are 22?F. below zero and 108?F. above. The average annual precipitation ranges from 13 to 20 inches in the Grande Ronde Valley to . more than 35 inches in the mountain highlands surrounding the valley. The topography of. the area is strongly controlled by the geologic structures, principally those related to block faulting. The terrain ranges from the nearly flat floors of the Grande Ronde and Indian Valleys, whose elevations are 2,600 to about 2,750 feet, to the mountainous uplands, whose average elevations are about 5,000 feet and which have local prominences exceeding 6,500 feet.
The rocks in the upper Grande Ronde River basin, from oldest to youngest, are metamorphic rocks of pre-Tertiary age; igneous masses of diorite and granodiorite that intruded the metamorphic rocks; tuff-breccia, welded and silicified tuff, and andesite and dacite flows, of Tertiary age; the Columbia River basalt of Miocene and possibly early Pliocene age; fanglomerate and lacustrine deposits of Pliocene and Pleistocene age; and younger deposits . of alluvium, colluvium, and welded tuff.
In the graben known as the Grande Ronde Valley, which is the principal populated district in the area, the valley fill deposits are as thick as 2,000 feet. The valley is bordered by the scarps of faults, the largest of which have displacements of more than 4.000 feet.
Most of the wells in the area obtain small to moderate supplies of water from unconfined aquifers in the val1ey fill and alluvial fan deposits. Moderate to large quantities of water are obtained from aquifers carrying artesian water in the fan alluvium and the Columbia River basalt. The available supplies of ground water greatly exceed the relatively small amounts that are being used, and the natural supplies are ..adequate for foreseeable domestic, industrial, irrigation, and municipal. requirements. Yields of future wells probably could be improved appreciably over those of present wells by exercising close attention to subsurface conditions during construction, and by greater use of well screens, gravel envelopes, and well development techniques. The chemical quality of the ground water in general is excellent. All waters sampled are potable and are within the desired ranges of hardness and salinity for most public, industrial, and irrigation uses. The average temperature of shallow ground water drawn from, the alluvial fill was 3?F. above the mean annual air temperature. That of water obtained from the basalt is 6?F. above the temperatures computed from the 'normal' gradient of 1.8?F. per 100 feet of increased depth.