Black Rock Desert

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  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 38.97°N
  • 112.5°W

  • 1800 m
    5904 ft

  • 327050
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit
    Elevation

  • Volcano
    Number

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The Black Rock Desert volcanic field consists of a group of closely spaced small volcanic fields of Pleistocene-to-Holocene age in the Black Rock and Sevier deserts of south-central Utah, at the eastern margin of the Great Basin. The Black Rock Desert field contains both Utah's youngest known rhyolite dome (0.4 million years old) and its youngest eruptive vent, which produced the roughly 660-year-old Ice Springs lava flows. The broader Black Rock Desert volcanic field includes the smaller Deseret, Pavant, Kanosh, Tabernacle, Ice Spring, and northern Black Rock Desert volcanic fields. The Pavant Butte and Tabernacle Hill tuff cones were erupted about 16,000 and 14,000 years ago through the waters of glacial Lake Bonneville. Lava flows from the Ice Springs crater complex traveled about 4 km to the west and north, overlapping late-Pleistocene flows from Pavant Butte.

Summary of Holocene eruption dates and Volcanic Explosivity Indices (VEI).

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
1290 ± 150 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Ice Springs Craters

This compilation of synonyms and subsidiary features may not be comprehensive. Features are organized into four major categories: Cones, Craters, Domes, and Thermal Features. Synonyms of features appear indented below the primary name. In some cases additional feature type, elevation, or location details are provided.



Cones
Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Beaver Ridge Vent
Black Rock Volcano Cone 1480 m 38° 48' 0" N 112° 30' 0" W
Deseret Vent
Pavant Butte Tuff cone 1753 m 39° 8' 0" N 112° 33' 0" W
Tabernacle Hill Tuff cone 1512 m 38° 54' 0" N 112° 32' 0" W


Craters
Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Crescent Crater 38° 58' 0" N 112° 30' 0" W
Ice Spring Crater 1550 m 38° 58' 0" N 112° 30' 0" W
Miter Crater 38° 58' 0" N 112° 30' 0" W
Terrace Crater 38° 58' 0" N 112° 35' 0" W


Domes
Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
White Mountain Dome 38° 54' 0" N 112° 30' 0" W
Pavant Butte, a large tuff cone in the Black Rock Desert volcanic field, was constructed on top of pahoehoe and aa lava flows about 16,000 years ago. Pavant Butte owes its morphology to the fact that it was erupted through a water depth of 85 m in Pleistocene Lake Bonneville. A prominent wave-cut shoreline is visible on the flanks of the cone. The subaerial portion of the 275-m-high cone consists of palagonite, formed by alteration of volcanic glass. The Pavant field is the northernmost in the Black Rock Desert.

Photo by Willie Scott, 1991 (U.S. Geological Survey).
The inconspicuous hill on the left-center horizon to the SW is Ice Springs volcano, part of the Black Rock Desert volcanic field in central Utah. The black area extending across the photo from the cinder cone complex is a 660-year-old basaltic lava flow from Ice Springs volcano. An additional NNE-SSW chain of small volcanic vents is located NE of the main vent complex. The volcanic fields in the Black Rock Desert area were first described by pioneering U.S. Geological Survey geologist G.K. Gilbert in the late 19th century.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1996 (Smithsonian Institution).
The multi-colored scoria deposits of the eastern side of Crescent Crater, part of the cinder and spatter cone complex at Ice Springs volcanic field, are the object of a mining operation to produce road aggregate. Ice Springs was the source of Utah's youngest lava flow about 660 years ago.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1996 (Smithsonian Institution).
The youngest volcanic eruptions in Utah took place from the Ice Springs volcanic center. Root fragments from soil beneath the lava flow are C-14 dated at 660 +/- 170 years old. Lava flows from the Ice Springs crater complex traveled about 4 km to the west and north, overlapping late-Pleistocene flows from the Pavant volcano. This view looks to the west from the rim of Crescent Crater, the largest of the overlapping cinder and spatter cones that fed the flows. Pocket Crater is the symmetrical cone in the center of the photo.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1996 (Smithsonian Institution).
Farmlands encroach on the eastern margin of the Ice Springs lava flow, Utah's youngest. The 660-year-old lava flow originated from a complex of cinder and spatter cones and extends a maximum distance of 8 km from its source. The flow contains abundant xenoliths of partially fused granite.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1996 (Smithsonian Institution).
The Black Rock Desert volcanic field consists of a cluster of closely spaced small volcanic fields of Pleistocene-to-Holocene age in the Black Rock and Sevier deserts. This view shows Utah's youngest known lava flow, the 660-year-old Ice Springs flow, which originated from a series of nested cinder and spatter cones. The rim of Crescent Crater is at the right, with the symmetrical Pocket Crater at the left and Pavant Butte in the distance. This tuff cone erupted through the waters of Pleistocene Lake Bonneville about 16,000 years ago.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1996 (Smithsonian Institution).
The Terrace, a crater seen here in the foreground from the rim of Mitre Crater, was the source of the voluminous lava flows seen extending toward the SE. The crater derives its name from several terraces, now partly removed by quarrying operations, that were formed by cooled lava lakes. These SE flows from The Terrace are the youngest of a series of eruptions at the Ice Springs volcanic field about 660 years ago. The Ice Springs volcanic field is one of several closely spaced volcanic fields in the Black Rock Desert of south-central Utah.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1996 (Smithsonian Institution).
The summit of Ice Springs volcano provides a perspective of the extensive lava field erupted from the volcano about 660 years ago. Ash and scoria from Crescent Crater on the east side of the cone complex was blown primarily to the east by prevailing winds and forms the lighter-colored material that mantles the lava flow in this direction. The eastern lava flows were erupted early during the Ice Springs eruption. The road in the foreground provides access to a quarrying operation at the cinder and spatter cone complex.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1996 (Smithsonian Institution).

The following references have all been used during the compilation of data for this volcano, it is not a comprehensive bibliography. Discussion of another volcano or eruption (sometimes far from the one that is the subject of the manuscript) may produce a citation that is not at all apparent from the title.

Condie K C, Barsky C K, 1972. Origin of Quaternary basalts from the Black Rock Desert region, Utah. Geol Soc Amer Bull, 83: 333-352.

Hoover J D, 1974. Periodic Quaternary volcanism in the Black Rock Desert, Utah. Brigham Young Univ Geol Studies, 21: 3-72.

Johnsen R L, Smith I E, Biek R F, 2010. Subalkaline volcanism in the Black Rock Desert and Markagunt Plateau volcanic fields of south-central Utah. In: Carney S M, Tabet D E, Johnson C L (eds), Geology of South-Central Utah {Utah Geol Assoc Pub} 39: 109-150.

Oviatt C G, 1991. Quaternary geology of the Black Rock Desert, Millard County, Utah. Utah Geol Min Surv Spec Studies, 73: 1-23.

Smith R L, Shaw H R, 1975. Igneous-related geothermal systems. U S Geol Surv Circ, 726: 58-83.

White J D L, 1996. Pre-emergent construction of a lacustrine basaltic volcano, Pavant Butte, Utah (USA). Bull Volc, 58: 249- 262.

Wood C A, Kienle J (eds), 1990. Volcanoes of North America. Cambridge, England: Cambridge Univ Press, 354 p.

Volcano Types

Volcanic field

Tectonic Setting

Rift zone
Continental crust (> 25 km)

Rock Types

Major
Basalt / Picro-Basalt
Andesite / Basaltic Andesite
Minor
Rhyolite

Population

Within 5 km
Within 10 km
Within 30 km
Within 100 km
3,292
3,292
3,679
54,291

Affiliated Databases

Large Eruptions of Black Rock Desert Information about large Quaternary eruptions (VEI >= 4) is cataloged in the Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions (LaMEVE) database of the Volcano Global Risk Identification and Analysis Project (VOGRIPA).
WOVOdat WOVOdat is a database of volcanic unrest; instrumentally and visually recorded changes in seismicity, ground deformation, gas emission, and other parameters from their normal baselines. It is sponsored by the World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) and presently hosted at the Earth Observatory of Singapore.
EarthChem EarthChem develops and maintains databases, software, and services that support the preservation, discovery, access and analysis of geochemical data, and facilitate their integration with the broad array of other available earth science parameters. EarthChem is operated by a joint team of disciplinary scientists, data scientists, data managers and information technology developers who are part of the NSF-funded data facility Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA). IEDA is a collaborative effort of EarthChem and the Marine Geoscience Data System (MGDS).
Smithsonian Collections Search the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences collections database. Go to the "Search Rocks and Ores" tab and use the Volcano Name drop-down to find samples.