First Advisor

Martin J. Streck

Date of Publication

Fall 1-22-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Geology






Calderas -- Eastern Oregon, Volcanology -- Eastern Oregon, Rhyolite -- Eastern Oregon -- Analysis, Rare earth metals -- Eastern Oregon -- Analysis



Physical Description

1 online resource (x, 201 pages)


Two adjacent caldera systems, the Mahogany Mountain and the Three Fingers caldera constitute voluminous rhyolitic volcanic deposits on the eastern margin of the Oregon-Idaho graben during the middle-Miocene. Both calderas are part of the Lake Owyhee volcanic field that in turn is part of widespread rhyolite deposits associated with the Columbia River Basalt province. We focus on establishing relationships between intracaldera units of Three Fingers caldera and caldera-forming tuff of Spring Creek and surveying the distribution of entrained mafic clasts which often display anomalous concentrations of rare earth elements.

Previous mapping identified two intra-caldera facies and one outflow facies of the tuff of Spring Creek, in addition to a younger rhyolite within the caldera (Trp). New 40Ar/39Ar dates show these units are nearly time equivalent at 15.64 ± 0.08 Ma for Trp and 15.64 ± 0.09 Ma for tuff of Spring Creek. Field evidence shows extensive coverage of Trp and associated facies emplaced after a period of sedimentation within the caldera. The main reinterpretations are: i) the mostly devitrified units of Trp are time equivalent to flows and domes of glassy, vesicular, or brecciated rhyolite previously mapped as intra-caldera tuff of Spring Creek; and ii) mafic clasts present in dense glass and porous rhyolite are fragments of mafic lava flows entrained by the subsequent eruptions.

New geochemical and mineralogical evidence clearly distinguish the outflow tuff of Spring Creek and intracaldera rhyolites. Compared to the outflow tuff, intracaldera rhyolite flows are less Fe-rich, (2 vs. 3 wt.% FeO), and higher silica (77 vs. 74 wt.% SiO2) rhyolites that lack vitrophyric texture. I interpret the investigated area as a rhyolite dome field, erupted subsequent to caldera collapse. The proximity of vents resulted in a complex stratigraphic overlap of rhyolite flows and clastic debris issued from coalescing domes. The predominance of high-standing dome interiors reflects the more resistant nature of dense devitrified rhyolite as compared to pumiceous, glassy, or brecciated facies of intra-caldera rhyolite.

Enrichment of REE in mafic clasts is highly variable, and does not correlate with their entrainment in a specific facies of intra-caldera rhyolite. Individual clasts contain up to 2400 ppm Nd, 1800 ppm Ce, and 1400 ppm La in the most enriched samples. Linear regression shows these highly anomalous concentrations are not correlated with variations in major element chemistry between enriched and un-enriched clasts. The geographic extent of mafic clast-bearing units is limited to less than 5 percent of the area mapped, and their distribution within these units is typically volumetrically insignificant, limiting their economic potential. Mechanisms for enrichment of REE within these rocks is however significant to our understanding of a yet unexplained phenomenon and may lead to further discoveries with greater economic potential.


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