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Open-File Report 00-407

Geophysical Constraints on the Virgin River Depression, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona

By V.E. Langenheim, J.M. Glen, R.C. Jachens, G.L. Dixon, T.C. Katzer, and R.L. Morin

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (127 kB)Abstract

Gravity and aeromagnetic data provide insights into the subsurface lithology and structure of the Virgin River Depression (VRD) of Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. The gravity data indicate that the Quaternary and Tertiary sedimentary deposits hide a complex pre-Cenozoic surface. A north-northwest-trending basement ridge separates the Mesquite and Mormon basins, as evidenced by seismic-reflection, gravity, and aeromagnetic data. The Mesquite basin is very deep, reaching depths of 8–10 km. The Mormon basin reaches thicknesses of 5 km. Its northern margin is very steep and may be characterized by right steps, although this interpretation could change with additional gravity stations. Most of the young (Quaternary), small-displacement faults trend within 10° of due north and occur within the deeper parts of the Mesquite basin north of the Virgin River. South of the Virgin River, only a few, young, small-displacement faults are mapped; the trend of these faults is more northeasterly and parallels the basement topography and is distinct from that of the faults to the north. The Virgin River appears to follow the margin of the basin as it emerges from the plateau.

The high-resolution aeromagnetic data outline the extent of shallow volcanic rocks in the Mesquite basin. The north-northwest alignment of volcanic rocks east of Toquop Wash appear to be structurally controlled because of faults imaged on seismic-reflection profiles and because the alignment is nearly perpendicular to the direction of Cenozoic extension. More buried volcanics likely exist to the north and east of the high-resolution aeromagnetic survey. Broader aeromagnetic anomalies beneath pre-Cenozoic basement in the Mormon Mountains and Tule Springs Hills reflect either Precambrian basement or Tertiary intrusions. These rocks are probably barriers to groundwater flow, except where fractured.

First posted February 28, 2001

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For information about gravity and magnetic data and methods, check out the Geophysical Unit of Menlo Park.

For additional information, contact:
Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
345 Middlefield Road, MS 901
Menlo Park, CA 94025-3591

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Suggested citation:

Langenheim, V.E., Glen, J.M., Jachens, R.C., Dixon, G.L., Katzer, T.C., and Morin, R.L., 2000, Geophysical Constraints on the Virgin River Depression, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 00-407, 28 pp.,




Geologic Setting

Previous Geophysical Work

Drill-Hole Data and Physical Properties

Gravity and Magnetic Data

Depth to Basement

Conclusions and Recommendations



11 Figures

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