Portland State University. Department of Geology
Martin J. Streck
Date of Award
Master of Science (M.S.) in Geology
1 online resource (xviii, 144 pages)
The Littlefield Rhyolite consists of widespread, high-temperature, hotspot-related rhyolitic lavas that erupted in eastern Oregon contemporaneous to late-stage Grande Ronde Basalt lavas. The estimated total volume of erupted rhyolites is ~100 km3 covering ~850 km2.
The focus of this study has been to investigate the stratigraphy and petrology of the Littlefield Rhyolite and whether field and geochemical relationships exist to help constrain the timing and storage sites of Grande Ronde Basalt magmas. Although often indistinguishable in the field, our data reveal that the Littlefield Rhyolite consists of two geochemically distinct rhyolite flow packages that are designated here as lower and upper Littlefield Rhyolite, according to stratigraphic relationships in the Malheur River Gorge. Rarely viewed in sequence, these rhyolites are distinguished by Zr, Ba, Nb, TiO2 and FeO contents and 40Ar/39Ar ages (16.12±0.04 and 16.16±0.10 Ma versus 16.01±0.06 and 16.05±0.04 Ma).
Rhyolites known either as ‘rhyolite of Cottonwood Mountain’ or ‘rhyolite of Bully Creek Canyon’, and which are exposed around Cottonwood Mountain, northwest of Vale, have compositions similar to samples of lower Littlefield Rhyolite. Additionally, single crystal 40Ar/39Ar ages of two samples (16.12±0.07, 16.20±0.08) are statistically indistinguishable.
Among units sandwiched between the lower and upper Littlefield Rhyolite are several lava flows and a one-meter thick agglutinated spatter deposit of Hunter Creek Basalt. The spatter deposit thickens to 10s of meters over a distance of 800 m where the deposit is strongly welded. We recognize this as a venting site of Hunter Creek Basalt, and that Hunter Creek Basalt is geochemically and petrographically similar to, and contemporaneous with, late-stage Grande Ronde Basalt. Ages of Littlefield Rhyolite flow units constrain the timing of eruption of Hunter Creek Basalt to an age span of ~100k years, between 16.05 – 16.12 Ma.
One local variant of late-stage Grand Ronde Basalt is icelanditic (~62 wt. % SiO2) and is found at a number of places including a location near the southern extent of the upper Littlefield Rhyolite. Geochemical modeling strongly suggests that icelandite lavas resulted from mixing of Grande Ronde and upper Littlefield Rhyolite magmas, thereby tying a Grande Ronde magma storage site to within the greater Malheur River Gorge area, and indicating contemporaneity of rhyolitic and Grande Ronde magma reservoirs.
Webb, Brian McCulloch, "The Littlefield Rhyolite, Eastern Oregon: Distinct Flow Units and Their Constraints on Age and Storage Sites of Grande Ronde Basalt Magmas" (2017). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 4022.