This report is on result of a long program of geologic investigation in south-central Idaho, undertaken as an aid in the development of the mineral resources of the region. This quadrangle was examined because of the exceptional opportunities for the study of stratigraphy and structure afforded by the Lost River Range, which is the highest in Idaho and contains comparatively few intrusive igneous rocks.
The Borah Peak quadrangle differs from the region to the west and northwest in that it contains parts of two sharply defined, narrow ranges elongated in a north-westerly direction, instead of broad, irregular mountain masses, in which the trends of most local topographic units are ill-defined. These ranges, the Lost River and the Lemhi, are flanked by intermontane valleys sparsely populated by stock ranchers.
The Lemhi and Swauger quartzites, regarded as of Belt (pre-Cambrian) age, are named. The two Cambrian (?) formations of the Bayhorse region are not recognized in this quadrangle. The Ramshorn slate (Lower Ordovician), widespread and thick there, does not appear to be exposed anywhere in the Borah Peak quadrangle with the possible exception of small areas east of the Elkhorn Ranch, where relations are obscure. The higher Paleozoic formations, named in order of decreasing age, are the Kinnikinic quartzite, Saturday Mountain formation, Laketown dolomite, Jefferson dolomite, Grand View dolomite, Three Forks limestone, Milligen formation, Brazer limestone, and Wood River formation. The Three Forks limestone, nowhere much over 250 feet thick, is the only one of these not recognized farther west. It provides substantial aid in the interpretation of upper Paleozoic stratigraphy. Equivalent beds to the west are presumably grouped with the Milligen. The grit that introduced uncertainties into the correlation of the Wood River and Milligen formations in the southeastern part of the Bayhorse quadrangle is absent here, and both formations have close lithologic resemblances to those in the type localities in the Wood River region. Wood River strata (Pennsylvanian) crop out only in the southwest corner of the quadrangle, and the Brazer may have been the last Paleozoic unit to be deposited over most of the area. Certainly it can have had comparatively little cover over it throughout the Mesozoic. The Brazer is regarded as Mississippian, but some of the fossils in it have Pennsylvania affinities. The carbonate rocks in the Three Forks and later formations are dominantly calcareous, while those in earlier units are dolomitic. Carbonaceous matter is present in most of the formations but is abundant only in the Milligen.
The Challis volcanics (Oligocene or Miocene) constitute the first stratified unit to be laid down after Paleozoic deposition ceased, although there was a little intrusive activity late in the Mesozoic. The volcanics were once widely distributed on the flanks of the mountains and are still plentiful in the northwestern corner of the quadrangle, near the head of the valley of the Pahsimeroi, and in smaller areas. They are neither so abundant nor so diversified as they are farther west. They are locally succeeded by an alluvial formation, here termed the Donkey fanglomerate, of possible Pliocene age. Abundant Quaternary glacial and alluvial deposits are present in the larger valleys.
The Lemhi and Swauger quartzites were broadly folded before Paleozoic sedimentation began. Apparently the later deformation affected them only enough to render the more impure beds somewhat schistose. The Paleozoic rocks have been folded into closely spaced, asymmetric anticlines, locally broken by thrusts at and near their crests. These folds approximately parallel the trends of the present range, whereas those in the old rocks strike more nearly north. Later deformation twisted some of the folds and produced thrusts of lower dip and greater extent. The folded rocks in the Lost River Range have been arched into an anticlinorium. The original, tight folds may have preceded the emplacement of the Idaho batholith farther west, while the anticlinorium and the late twists and low thrusts result from deformation during the long period in which the batholith came to place and adjusted itself. Local intricately contorted beds in the Brazer limestone are interpreted as the effects of flowage in calcareous material subjected to tangential pressure under comparatively light supercumbent load.
The quadrangle contains numerous normal faults of diverse trends. Most of those that can be conclusively demonstrated strike transverse to the trends of the ranges, but especially along parts of the southwest front of the Lemhi Range normal faults along the range fronts may have helped locally to guide erosion of the mountains. Some of the faults have displacements of thousands of feet and are thought to have originated in connection with the low-angle thrusts. Most of these, as well as minor breaks of diverse trends, affect also the Challis volcanics, which shows that renewed movement occurred in Tertiary time.
The present mountain masses and broad intermontane valleys are in about the positions occupied by similar features in the early Tertiary. Several incomplete erosion cycles since then have greatly modified the topography but have not obliterated the influence of these ancient land forms. The results of early episodes in the development of the topography are much obscured by the rugged forms that result from active Pleistocene glaciation and later vigorous stream erosion, but modified remnants of the post-Challis and Donkey Hills surfaces can be clearly distinguished. Several less widespread remnants mark intermediate steps in the process. Exceptionally abundant and permeable, coarse alluvial and glacial deposits floor intermontane valleys and choke the larger mountain gorges to such an extent as to interfere with normal erosion and make the surface-water supplies even scantier than might be expected from the climate of the region, which is moderately humid in the mountains and semiarid in the valleys. Active erosion in the high mountains and comparatively static conditions on fans at the range borders result in striking contrasts.