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Late Quaternary sedimentary features of Bear Lake, Utah and Idaho

January 1, 2009

Bear Lake sediments were predominantly aragonite for most of the Holocene, reflecting a hydrologically closed lake fed by groundwater and small streams. During the late Pleistocene, the Bear River flowed into Bear Lake and the lake waters spilled back into the Bear River drainage. At that time, sediment deposition was dominated by siliciclastic sediment and calcite. Lake-level fluctuation during the Holocene and late Pleistocene produced three types of aragonite deposits in the central lake area that are differentiated primarily by grain size, sorting, and diatom assemblage. Lake-margin deposits during this period consisted of sandy deposits including well-developed shoreface deposits on margins adjacent to relatively steep gradient lake floors and thin, graded shell gravel on margins adjacent to very low gradient lake-floor areas. Throughout the period of aragonite deposition, episodic drops in lake level resulted in erosion of shallow-water deposits, which were redeposited into the deeper lake. These sediment-focusing episodes are recognized by mixing of different mineralogies and crystal habits and mixing of a range of diatom fauna into poorly sorted mud layers. Lake-level drops are also indicated by erosional gaps in the shallow-water records and the occurrence of shoreline deposits in areas now covered by as much as 30 m of water. Calcite precipitation occurred for a short interval of time during the Holocene in response to an influx of Bear River water ca. 8 ka. The Pleistocene sedimentary record of Bear Lake until ca. 18 ka is dominated by siliciclastic glacial fl our derived from glaciers in the Uinta Mountains. The Bear Lake deep-water siliciclastic deposits are thoroughly bioturbated, whereas shallow-water deposits transitional to deltas in the northern part of the basin are upward-coarsening sequences of laminated mud, silt, and sand. A major drop in lake level occurred ca. 18 ka, resulting in subaerial exposure of the lake floor in areas now covered by over 40 m of water. The subaerial surfaces are indicated by root casts and gypsum-rich soil features. Bear Lake remained at this low state with a minor transgression until ca. 15 ka. A new influx of Bear River water produced a major lake transgression and deposited a thin calcite deposit. Bear Lake quickly dropped to a shallow-water state, accumulating a mixture of calcite and siliciclastic sediment that contains at least two intervals of root-disrupted horizons indicating lake-level drops to more than 40 m below the modern highstand. About 11,500 yr B.P., the lake level rose again through an influx of Bear River water producing another thin calcite layer. The Bear River ceased to flow into the basin and the lake salinity increased, resulting in the aragonite deposition that persisted until modern human activity. The climatic record of Bear Lake sediment is difficult to ascertain by using standard chemical and biological techniques because of variations in the inflow hydrology and the significant amount of erosion and redeposition of chemical and biological sediment components. Copyright ?? 2009 The Geological Society of America.

Publication Year 2009
Title Late Quaternary sedimentary features of Bear Lake, Utah and Idaho
DOI 10.1130/2009.2450(03)
Authors J. P. Smoot
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Special Paper of the Geological Society of America
Index ID 70035355
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse