Summit Lake landslide and geomorphic history of Summit Lake basin, northwestern Nevada

B. Brandon Curry, Wilton N. Melhorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Summit Lake landslide, northwestern Nevada, composed of Early Miocene pyroclastic debris, Ashdown Tuff, and basalt and rhyolite of the Black Rock Range, blocked the upper Soldier Creek-Snow Creek drainage and impounded Summit Lake sometimes prior to 7840 yr B.P. The slide covers 8.2 km2 and has geomorphic features characteristic of long run-out landslides, such as lobate form, longitudinal and transverse ridges, low surface gradient (7.1 °), and preservation of original stratigraphic position of transported blocks. However, estimated debris volume is the smallest reported (2.5 × 105 m3) for a landslide of this type. The outflow channel of the Summit Lake basin was a northward-flowing stream valley entrenched by Mahogany Creek. Subsequent negative tectonic adjustment of the basin by about 35 m, accompanied by concommitant progradation of a prominent alluvial fan deposited by Mahogany Creek, argues for a probable diversion of drainage from the Alvord basin southward into the Lahontan basin. The landslide occurred while the creek flowed southward, transferring about 147 km2 of watershed from the Lahontan basin back to the Alvord basin. Overflow northward occurred during high stands of Pluvial Lake Parman in the basin; otherwise, under drier climates, the Summit Lake basin has been closed. Within large depressions on the slide surface, the ca. 6800 yr old Mazama Bed and other sediments have buried a weakly developed soil. Disseminated humus in the soil yields an age of 7840 ± 310 yr B.P. Absence of older tephra (such as St. Helens M) brackets the slide age between 7840 and 19,000 yr B.P. Projectile points found on the highest strandlines of Pluvial Lake Parman suggest a ca 8700 yr B.P. age by correlation with cultural artifacts and radiocarbon ages from nearby Last Supper Cave, Nevada. Organic matter accumulation in landslide soils suggests ages ranging from 9100 to 16,250 yr B.P. Estimation of the age of the slide from morphologic data for the isolated Summit Lake population of Lahontan cutthroat trout does not conflict with the radiometric ages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


Dive into the research topics of 'Summit Lake landslide and geomorphic history of Summit Lake basin, northwestern Nevada'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this