Abstract

The north fork of Flodelle Creek drainage basin in northeastern Washington contains the first surficial uranium deposit to be mined in the United States. The uranium was leached from granitic bedrock and fixed in organic-rich pond sediments. The distribution of these pond sediments and, therefore, the uranium has been strongly influenced by relict glacial topography, slope processes, and beaver activity.

The north fork of Flodelle Creek drainage basin was covered by the Cordilleran ice sheet during the Fraser (late Wisconsin) glaciation. Till and outwash were deposited on the valley slopes and valley floor as ice receded. Outwash incision and melting of stagnant ice led to formation of a terrace and kames. Shortly after deglaciation, a small pond formed in the upper part of the valley when unconsolidated glacial sediment slumped off the valley slopes and restricted drainage. Fluvial processes dominated in the central and downstream parts of the valley for several thousand years after deglaciation, although drainage was partly restricted by kames. Beavers began to occupy and build dams on the wide outwash plains in the valley floor ∼5000 yr B.P. Beaver ponds in the central part of the basin subsequently filled with sediment and were abandoned, whereas downstream ponds remained relatively free of clastic input and are presently occupied by beavers.

Ponds in the drainage basin have been sinks for fine-grained, organic-rich sediments. These organic-rich sediments provide a suitable geochemical environment for precipitation and adsorption of uranium leached from granitic bedrock into ground, spring, and surface waters. Processes of pond formation have thus been important in the development of surficial uranium deposits in the north fork of Flodelle Creek drainage basin and may have similar significance in other areas.

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