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Neogene sedimentation on and adjacent to the Columbia Plateau in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho was related to volcanism and tectonism. During emplacement of the largest volume of middle Miocene flood basalts (Grande Ronde, Picture Gorge, and Wanapum Basalts), local drainage disruption and gradient diminishment caused deposition in lakes and by sluggish mixed-load streams at or near the flow margins (e.g., Latah, lower Ellensburg, and Simtustus Formations). The Pasco basin was the principal subsiding feature at this time, but because of its central position on the basalt plateau, it received only minor accumulations of detrital and organic-rich sediments. The Mascall and Payette Formations (and equivalents) were deposited in subsiding basins along the southern and southeastern plateau margins. As basalt eruptive frequency and volume diminished in late Miocene time (Saddle Mountains Basalt), deposition occurred primarily in response to intrabasin tectonism and Cascade volcanism. A well-integrated through-flowing river system transported detritus from the surrounding highlands across the plateau. Late Miocene sedimentation along the western plateau margin was strongly influenced by large volcaniclastic sediment loads from the Cascade Range (upper Ellensburg, Dalles, and Deschutes Formations). Elsewhere, fluvial and lacustrine deposition occurred in response to basin subsidence (e.g., Ringold and Idaho Formations) or influx of coarse clastics into shallow basins (e.g., Alkali Canyon and McKay Formations, Thorp Gravel). Widespread unconformities and provenances indicative of drainage reversals in the Blue Mountains region may reflect a transition from primarily compressional to extensional deformation along the southern margin of the plateau between 12 and 10 Ma.

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