First Advisor

Curt D. Peterson

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Geology




River sediments -- Columbia River, Sedimentation and deposition -- Columbia River Watershed, Stratigraphic Geology -- Holocene



Physical Description

1 online resource (xiii, 210 p.)


The Columbia River is the largest fluvially dominated estuary in the Pacific Northwest, yet the Holocene transgressive fill of this system has not previously been studied. Nearly 1500 industry borehole and water well records in the lower Columbia River basin (LCRB) were analyzed. These records document the sedimentary infilling of the lower 120 miles of the drowned river valley that occurred during the Holocene marine transgression (10-0 ka) . Of particular importance is a key stratigraphic marker horizon of volcanic tephra that has been identified throughout the LCRB. INAA was used to determine the geochemical composition of the target tephra layer. The tephra geochemistry was then compared to geochemical data from potential Cascade source volcanos to determine whether the tephra layers are geochemically related, and the possible age and source of the tephra. The geochemical comparisons indicate that the suspect tephra horizon was derived from the climax eruption of Mount Mazama approximately 6845 years ago. Cross-sections have been constructed that record the lateral and longitudinal depositional development of the river basin. Sediment grain size distribution data have also been compiled and shows that grain size distribution does not change with respect to subsurface elevation within the LCRB. The results indicate that the LCRB has been dominated by fine sand deposition throughout the Holocene period, and silt and clay sized fractions were bypassed through the system to be deposited offshore. A total volume of 74.6 km3 of sediment has accumulated in the basin since the time of the catastrophic floods 12,700 years ago. Sediment volume analysis was used to predict past fluvial sediment supply rates and sediment retention. The volume of sediment deposition from early to late Holocene time has decreased by a factor of 2.4. Sedimentation rates in the basin are estimated from a basin isopach of the Holocene fill and from an extrapolated sediment sea-level curve. Basin sedimentation rates ranged from 12. 6 mm/yr-1 for the early Holocene to 2. 5 mm/yr-1 for the late Holocene period. This factor of 5 decrease in the sedimentation rate also indicates that the Columbia River bypassed much of its fine grained fraction through to the marine environment during the mid-late Holocene.


If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have it removed from the Open Access Collection, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL

Persistent Identifier

map1.jpg (27759 kB)
Lower Columbia River Isopach and Borehole Locations

Map2.jpg (28633 kB)
Longview Area Isopach and Borehole Locations

map3.jpg (16574 kB)
Mid Columbia Isopach and Borehole Locations

map4.jpg (27335 kB)
Portland Area Isopach and Borehole Locations