Late Quaternary spring-fed deposits of the Grand Canyon and their implication for deep lava-dammed lakes

Darrell S. Kaufman, Gary O'Brien, Jim I. Mead, Jordon Bright, Paul Umhoefer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


One of the most intriguing episodes in the Quaternary evolution of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, Arizona, was the development of vast lakes that are thought to have backed up behind lava erupted into the gorge. Stratigraphic evidence for these deep lava-dammed lakes is expectedly sparse. Possible lacustrine deposits at six areas in the eastern canyon yielded no compelling evidence for sediment deposited in a deep lake. At two of the sites the sediment was associated with late Quaternary spring-fed pools and marshes. Water-lain silt and sand at lower Havasu Creek was deposited ~3000 cal yr ago. The deposit contains an ostracode assemblage similar to that living in the modern travertine-dammed pools adjacent to the outcrop. The second deposit, at Lees Ferry, formed in a spring-fed marsh ~43,000 cal yr ago, as determined by 14C and amino acid geochronology. It contains abundant ostracode and mollusk fossils, the richest assemblages reported from the Grand Canyon to date. Our interpretation of these sediments as spring-fed deposits, and their relative youth, provides an alternative to the conventional view that deposits like these were formed in deep lava-dammed lakes that filled the Grand Canyon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-340
Number of pages12
JournalQuaternary Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2002


  • Amino acid geochronology
  • Arizona
  • Grand Canyon
  • Lava dammed lake
  • Mollusks
  • Ostracodes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Late Quaternary spring-fed deposits of the Grand Canyon and their implication for deep lava-dammed lakes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this