Abstract

Death Valley, a complex tectonic and hydrologic basin, was cored from its lowest surface elevation to a depth of 186 m. The sediments range from bedded primary halite to black muds. Continental ostracodes found in the black muds indicate that those sediments were deposited in a variety of hydrologic settings ranging from deep, relatively fresh water to shallow saline lakes to spring discharge supported wetlands. The alkaline-enriched, calcium-depleted paleolake waters indicate extrabasinal streamflow and basin-margin spring discharge. The alkaline-depleted, calcium-enriched paleowetland waters indicate intrabasinal spring discharge. During Marine Isotope Stage 6 (MIS 6, ca. 180−140 ka) the hydrologic settings were highly variable, implying that complex relations existed between climate and basin hydrology. Termination II (MIS 6 to MIS 5E) was a complex multicyclic sequence of paleoenvironments, implying that climates oscillated between high and low effective moisture. MIS 4 (ca. 73−61 ka) was a spring discharge supported wetland complex. During MIS 2 (ca. 20−12 ka) the hydrologic settings were variable, although they are not fully understood because some black muds deposited during that time were lost during coring.

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