The geochronology of Tertiary igneous events at the Nevada Test Site and adjacent area is outlined by 36 recently determined K-Ar ages, together with other published K-Ar ages. The first evidence of Tertiary igneous activity is the ash-fall bedded tuffs in the Horse Spring Formation. One such tuff has been dated as 29 m.y. old (late Oligocene). Other ash-flow tuffs and lavas formed during the Miocene and Pliocene, according to radiometric age determinations. The youngest ash-flow tuff in this area is about 6 m.y. old.
Great volumes of ash and lava were spewed forth 13 to 11 m.y. ago to form the Paintbrush and Timber Mountain Tuffs. Sixteen replicate age determinations on minerals from four densely welded ash-flow tuffs from these formations gave a pooled standard deviation of about ± 2 percent error, provided anomalous ages were rejected on the basis of rock alteration or analytical difficulties.
In the Air Force Gunnery Range, just north of the test site, K-Ar ages suggest that the oldest ash flows, the Monotony Tuff, were emplaced 27.6 m.y. ago (late Oligocene) and were followed by outpourings of lava and ash throughout most of the Miocene. Youngest dated lava is about 13 m.y. old.
In the southern Egan and northern Seaman Ranges of central Nevada, the Needles Range (?) Formation has an averaged K-Ar age of about 30 m.y., which compares closely with 29.2 m.y., the average of four earlier K-Ar ages determined by other investigators on known Needles Range Formation in eastern Nevada and western Utah.
K-Ar ages given by micas from two exposed plutons in the Nevada Test Site suggest emplacement of these plutons at about 93 m.y. ago (early Late Cretaceous), although earlier emplacement in the Mesozoic would be more consistent with Pb-α ages.