US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Sedimentary Geology 148 (2002) 61–78.


High-resolution seismic-reflection data from Great Salt Lake show that the basinal sediment sequence is cut by numerous faults with N–S and NE–SW orientations. This faulting shows evidence of varied timing and relative offsets, but includes at least three events totaling about 12 m following the Bonneville phase of the lake (since about 13.5 ka). Several faults displace the uppermost sediments and the lake floor. Bioherm structures are present above some faults, which suggests that the faults served as conduits for sublacustrine discharge of fresh water. A shallow, fault-controlled ridge between Carrington Island and Promontory Point, underlain by a well-cemented pavement, separates the main lake into two basins. The pavement appears to be early Holocene in age and younger sediments lap onto it. Onlap–offlap relationships, reflection truncations, and morphology of the lake floor indicate a low lake, well below the present level, during the early Holocene, during which most of the basin was probably a playa. This low stand is represented by irregular reflections in seismic profiles from the deepest part of the basin. Other prominent reflectors in the profiles are correlated with lithologic changes in sediment cores related to the end of the Bonneville stage of the lake, a thick mirabilite layer in the northern basin, and the Mazama tephra. Reflections below those penetrated by sediment cores document earlier lacustrine cycles.