A three-dimensional interpretation of the basins of Nevada was developed based on statewide data bases of digital-gravity, magnetic, geologic, well, and topographic information. An iterative technique was applied to isostatic residual gravity anomalies in Nevada in order to define the location and shape of pre-Tertiary basement and to produce a gravity map that reflects variations of density within the pre-Tertiary basement. The dominant feature of the basement gravity of Nevada is an enormous area of low gravity that spans the entire state between latitudes 37°N and 40.5°N. This regional low strongly correlates with the distribution of middle and late Tertiary volcanic rocks and may reflect silicic intrusions within the mid-crust and upper crust that are the counterparts of volcanic rocks at the surface. Although 80% of Nevada is covered by Cenozoic deposits, these deposits are thicker than 1 km over only about 20% of the state. The remaining 60% of Nevada may have pre-Tertiary basement rocks within reach of current mineral-exploration techniques.
Aeromagnetic profiles from the National Uranium Resource Evaluation (NURE) were analyzed in order to produce a map showing the location of shallow magnetic sources in Nevada. This analysis shows that 46% of the state has magnetic sources, generally Mesozoic and Cenozoic igneous rocks, within 1 km of the surface. A linear magnetic anomaly in north-central Nevada has been interpreted by others as a rift zone active during middle Miocene time. The rift also is evident in NURE magnetic profiles, but our interpretation suggests that the magnetic expression of the rift continues south-southeast with similar strike to at least 38°N and perhaps to the amagmatic zone (lat. 37°N). The survival since the middle Miocene of this narrow crustal feature, essentially linear over a distance of 500 km, is difficult to interpret in light of later Basin and Range deformation. Our analysis of gravity anomalies shows that many deep Cenozoic basins are located near the rift, yet only two basins cut across it, and at least five others change strike near the rift, as if to avoid it. The rift may have remained linear because it is associated with crustal structures that acted to resist subsequent deformation.