Open-File Report 2014–1157
The Centennial Valley and Centennial Range continue to be formed by ongoing displacement on the Centennial fault. The dominant fault movement is downward, creating space in the valley for lakes and the deposition of sediment. The Centennial Valley originally drained to the northeast through a canyon now represented by a chain of lakes starting with Elk Lake. Subsequently, large landslides blocked and dammed the drainage, which created Lake Centennial, in the Centennial Valley. Sediments deposited in this late Pleistocene lake underlie much of the valley floor and rest on permeable sand and gravel deposited when the valley drained to the northeast. Cold Pleistocene climates enhanced colluvial supply of gravelly sediment to mountain streams and high peak flows carried gravelly sediment into the valley. There, the lower gradient of the streams resulted in deposition of alluvial fans peripheral to Lake Centennial as the lake lowered through time to the level of the two present lakes. Pleistocene glaciers formed in the high Centennial Range, built glacial moraines, and also supplied glacial outwash to the alluvial fans. Winds from the west and south blew sand to the northeast side of the valley building up high dunes.
The central part of the map area is flat, sloping to the west by only 0.6 meters in 13 kilometers (2 feet in 8 miles) to form a watery lowland. This lowland contains Upper and Lower Red Rock Lakes, many ponds, and peat lands inside the “water plane,” above which are somewhat steeper slopes. The permeable sands and gravels beneath Lake Centennial sediments provide a path for groundwater recharged from the adjacent uplands. This groundwater leaks upward through Lake Centennial sediments and sustains wetland vegetation into late summer. Upper and Lower Red Rock Lakes are formed by alluvial-fan dams. Alluvial fans converge from both the south and the north to form outlet thresholds that dam the two shallow lakes upstream. The surficial geology aids in understanding how the landscapes in and around the Red Rock Lakes Wildlife Refuge were formed and how they transmit water.
This report uses metric units except for altitudes that are also given in feet because contours on the base map are in feet and the reader would have to convert from metric units to feet to understand the map relationships.
First posted September 23, 2014
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Pierce, K.L., Chesley-Preston, T.L., and Sojda, R.L., 2014, Surficial geologic map of the Red Rock Lakes area, southwest Montana: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2014–1157, 22 p., scale 1:24,000, https://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20141157.
ISSN 2331-1258 (online)
Surficial Geologic History of the Red Rock Lakes Area
Description of Surficial Geologic Map Units, Red Rock Lakes Area, Southwest Montana