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ABSTRACT

Newark Valley lies between the two largest pluvial lake systems in the Great Basin, Lake Lahontan and Lake Bonneville. Soils and geomorphology, stratigraphic interpretations, radiocarbon ages, and amino acid racemization geochronology analyses were employed to interpret the relative and numerical ages of lacustrine deposits in the valley. The marine oxygen isotope stage (MIS) 2 beach barriers are characterized by well-preserved morphology and deposits with youthful soil development, with Bwk horizons and maximum stage I+ carbonate morphology. Radiocarbon ages of gastropods and tufas within these MIS 2–age deposits permit construction of a latest Pleistocene lake-level curve for Newark Valley, including a maximum limiting age of 13,780 ± 50 14C yr B.P. for the most recent highstand, and they provide a calibration point for soil development in lacustrine deposits in the central Great Basin. The MIS 8–age to MIS 4–age beach barriers are higher in elevation and represent a larger lake than existed during MIS 2. The beach barriers have subdued morphology, are only preserved in short segments, and have stronger soil development, with Bkm and/or Bkmt horizons and maximum stage III+ to IV carbonate morphology. Newark Lake reached elevations higher than the MIS 2 highstand during at least two additional pluvial periods, MIS 16 and MIS 12, 10, or 8. These oldest lacustrine deposits do not have preserved shoreline features and are represented only by gravel lags, buried deposits, and buried soils with similar strong soil development. This sequence of middle and latest Pleistocene shorelines records a long-term pluvial history in this basin that remained internally drained for the last four or more pluvial cycles.

Obtaining numerical ages from material within lacustrine deposits in the Great Basin can be challenging. Amino acid D/L values from gastropod shells and mollusk valves proved to be a valuable tool to correlate lacustrine deposits within Newark Valley. Comparison of soils and geomorphology results to independent 36Cl cosmogenic nuclide ages from a different study indicated unexpected changes in rates of soil development during the past ~200,000 yr and suggested that common stratigraphic changes in lake stratigraphy could obscure incremental changes in soil development and/or complicate 36Cl cosmogenic nuclide age estimates.

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