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Quaternary geology of the Bellevue area in Blaine and Camas Counties, Idaho

January 1, 1994

The Bellevue area covers about 350 square miles of a foothill belt between the Rocky Mountains to the north and the Snake River plains to the south. Complexly deformed impure quartzites and limestones of the Mississippian Milligen and Pennsylvanian-Permian Wood River formations were intruded by large bodies of quartz diorite and granodiorite along regional structures trending northwesterly; the intrusions are part of the Cretaceous Idaho batholith. Erosional remnants of the Challis volcanics, dominantly latitic to andesitic in composition and early(?) to middle Tertiary in age, rest unconformably on the older rocks. A sequence of Pliocene Rhyolitic ash flows and basaltic lava flows unconformably overlies the Challis and older rocks and is in turn unconformably overlain by olivine basalt of late Pliocene or early Quaternary age. The main valleys of the area, partly Erosional and partly structural in origin, are underlaind by late Quaternary olivine basalt flows (Snake River basalt) and intercalated lacustrine, fluvial, proglacial sediments.

The Big Wood River, the master stream of the area, flows southward through a narrow steep-sided valley in the mountainous country north of the Bellevue area and debouches into a broad alluvial valley, the Wood River Valley, in the foothill belt. The valley has the shape of an isosceles triangle with a ten mile long, east-west base consisting of a ridge of Pliocene volcanics which separates the valley from the Snake River Plains to the south. The river now flows through a narrow gap in the southwest corner of the triangle. A similar, but wider, gap around the east end of the ridge was formerly occupied by the river. The river has been shifted back and forth between these two gaps at least four times during an interval in which six late Quaternary basalt flows erupted in the Bellevue area. Two of the flows caused direct diversion of the river and another was influential in bringing about a diversion on an aggradational fan upstream from the lava dam.

Just prior to the Bull Lake stage the river, flowing out the east gap, was blocked but not diverted by the youngest basalt flow in the Bellevue area. During the proglacial aggradation, the river shifted widely on its fan and spilled alternatively out both the east and west gaps. After the Bull Lake stage, the west gap had an advantageous base level relative to the lava-blocked east gap, and the river cut down in the west gap. After the second, Pinedale, proglacial aggradation in the Wood River Valley, the west gap still maintained an advantageous base level, and the river again cut down in the west outlet valley where it remains today.

Periglacial deposits completely dominate the sidestream valleys of the Bellevue area. They formed under a rigorous climate during the Pinedale stage, when slope erosion accelerated by frost activated processes caused aggradation of valley floors by local detritus. Even at present the larger sidestreams are so choked with detritus that the streams have not regained control of their valley floors.

Recent basalt, comparable in age to the younger flows of the Craters of the Moon National Monument, spread from a rugged, cratered vent several miles south of the Bellevue area. Using degree of weathering, erosion, and soil development as a basis of comparison, this flow provides and end point for estimating the relative ages of the six late Quaternary flows in the Bellevue area.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1962
Title Quaternary geology of the Bellevue area in Blaine and Camas Counties, Idaho
DOI 10.3133/ofr62120
Authors Dwight Lyman Schmidt
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 62-120
Index ID ofr62120
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse