Abstract

The question of whether a pluvial lake existed in Fish Lake Valley, Nevada and California, has been debated for more than 100 yr. New stratigraphic evidence indicates that a lake did exist in this valley at intervals during late Pliocene to middle Pleistocene time. This lake may have drained northward, or it may have been periodically contiguous with a pluvial lake to the north in Columbus Salt Marsh.

Proof of the existence of this lake, informally named Pluvial Lake Rennie, is derived from three principal outcrops of shallow-water deposits, two outcrops of deep-water deposits, and several drilling logs. The deposits contain beds of silicic tephra, which provide age control. On the basis of thickness, grain size, major-oxide chemistry of glass shards, and paleomagnetism, three of the shallow-water deposits, including deltaic(?), beach, and siliceous hot-spring sediments, consist mainly of Bishop ash derived from the 0.77 Ma eruption of the Long Valley caldera. A fourth shallow-water deposit(?) is associated with ∼1 Ma Glass Mountain tephra beds. The exposed deep-water deposits consist of green claystone, siltstone, and fine-grained sandstone containing tephra derived from the eruptions of the ∼2.1 Ma tuff of Taylor Canyon and the ∼2.0 Ma Huckleberry Ridge Tuff. The drilling logs record numerous thick beds of clay and sandy clay inferred to be deep-water lacustrine deposits.

Pluvial Lake Rennie fluctuated in size and depth beginning prior to 2 Ma and continuing until sometime alter 0.77 Ma. At about 0.77 Ma, the lake had a highstand at an elevation of ∼1,460 m, covered an area of 400-500 km2, and had a maximum depth of ∼250 m. The lake level dropped just after the eruption of the Bishop ash, but the lake may have persisted at a lower level until ∼0.5 Ma. No large, long-lived lake existed in Fish Lake Valley in late Pleistocene time, probably due to the increasing rain-shadow effect caused by the relative uplift of the White Mountains and Sierra Nevada in the Pleistocene. These results indicate that the late middle to late Pleistocene history of Pluvial Lake Rennie is similar to that of Lake Tecopa but is quite different from those of Lake Lahontan and Searles Lake.

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