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Where the lower Colorado River traverses the Basin and Range Province below the Grand Canyon, significant late Pleistocene aggradation and subsequent degradation of the river are indicated by luminescence, paleomagnetic, and U-series data and stratigraphy. Aggradational, finely bedded reddish mud, clay, and silt are underlain and overlain by cross-bedded to plane-bedded fine sand and silt. That sequence is commonly disconformably overlain by up to 15 m of coarse sand, rounded exotic gravel, and angular, locally derived gravel. Luminescence dates on the fine sediments range from ca. 40 ka to 70 ka, considering collective uncertainties. A section of fine-grained sediments over a vertical range of 15 m shows normal polarity magnetization and little apparent secular variation beyond dispersion that can be explained by compaction. Aggradation on large local tributaries such as Las Vegas Wash appears to have been coeval with that of the Colorado River. The upper limits of erosional remnants of the sequence define a steeper grade above the historical river, and these late Pleistocene deposits are greater than 100 m above the modern river north of 35°N. Terrace gravels inset below the upper limit of the aggradational sequence yield 230Th dates that range from ca. 32 ka to 60 ka and indicate that degradation of the river system in this area closely followed aggradation.

The thick sequence of rhythmically bedded mud and silt possibly indicates settings that were ponded laterally between valley slopes and levees of the aggrading river. Potential driving mechanisms for such aggradation and degradation include sediment-yield response to climate change, drought, fire, vegetation-ecosystem dynamics, glaciation, paleofloods, groundwater discharge, and building and destruction of natural dams produced by volcanism and landslides.

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