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Open-File Report 2009–1174

Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service

Seismic Velocities and Thicknesses of Alluvial Deposits along Baker Creek in the Great Basin National Park, East-Central Nevada

By Kip K. Allander and David L. Berger


To better understand how proposed large-scale water withdrawals in Snake Valley may affect the water resources and hydrologic processes in the Great Basin National Park, the National Park Service needs to have a better understanding of the relations between streamflow and groundwater flow through alluvium and karst topography of the Pole Canyon Limestone. Information that is critical to understanding these relations is the thickness of alluvial deposits that overlay the Pole Canyon Limestone.

In mid-April 2009, the U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service used seismic refraction along three profiles adjacent to Baker Creek to further refine understanding of the local geology. Two refractors and three distinct velocity layers were detected along two of the profiles and a single refractor and two distinct velocity layers were detected along a third profile.

In the unsaturated alluvium, average velocity was 2,000 feet per second, thickness ranged from about 7 to 20 feet along two profiles downstream of the Narrows, and thickness was at least 100 feet along a single profile upstream of the Narrows. Saturated alluvium was only present downstream of the Narrows—average velocity was 4,400 feet per second, and thickness ranged from about 40 to 110 feet. The third layer probably represented Pole Canyon Limestone or Tertiary granitic rock units with an average velocity of 12,500 feet per second. Along the upstream and middle profiles (profiles 3 and 1, respectively), the depth to top of the third layer ranged from at least 60 to 110 feet below land surface and is most likely the Pole Canyon Limestone. The third layer at the farthest downstream profile (profile 2) may be a Tertiary granitic rock unit.

Baker Creek is disconnected from the groundwater system along the upstream profile (profile 3) and streamflow losses infiltrate vertically downward to the Pole Canyon Limestone. Along the downstream and middle profiles (profiles 2 and 1, respectively), the presence of a shallow water table indicates that low permeability Tertiary granitic rock may extend across the Baker Creek Drainage intersecting the Pole Canyon Limestone. The Tertiary granitic rock may be acting as a barrier to groundwater flow within the Pole Canyon Limestone.

For additional information contact:
Director, Nevada Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
2730 N. Deer Run Road
Carson City, Nevada 89701

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Suggested citation:

Allander, K.K., and Berger, D.L., 2009, Seismic velocities and thicknesses of alluvial deposits along Baker Creek in the Great Basin National Park, east-central Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009-1174, 14 p.




Seismic-Refraction Method

Seismic Velocities and Thickness of Alluvial Deposits


References Cited

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