Abstract – 1999: Deposition of Mount Mazama tephra in a landslide dammed lake on the upper Skagit River, Washington

Abstract

1999: Deposition of Mount Mazama tephra in a landslide dammed lake on the upper Skagit River, Washington

Jon L. Riedel, P.T. Pringle, and R.L. Schuster

The cataclysmic eruption of Mount Mazama, Oregon, at c. 6730 14C yr BP, deposited tephra over 1.0 × 106 km2 of north-western North America. Primary tephra fall accumulated to a thickness of 2 cm in the upper Skagit River watershed, Washington. Mazama tephra eroded from this watershed was deposited in Lake Ksnea, of 14 km length and 40 m depth. This lake was created when a landslide blocked the Skagit River at 7040 14C yr BP.

Horizontally bedded, dark grey silt and clay were deposited slowly by suspension settling in Lake Ksnea before the eruption of Mount Mazama. The 2-cm-thick primary Mazama tephra layer abruptly caps 7 m of pre-eruption sediments, and is overlain by as much as 17 m of Mazama tephra deposited relatively rapidly on a delta at the mouth of Damnation Creek. Most of a 13-m-thick section is composed of lacustrine tephra containing rhythmic stratified beds deposited by suspension settling. Turbidity currents deposited centimetre-scale, cross-bedded silt and tephra at the top of some rhythmite beds. Lower in this section, tephra containing abundant fine-grained terrestrial sediments and other sedimentary structures interrupts the rhythmite beds. These structures include faulted and warped beds, flame structures and pendants created by soft-sediment deformation. Tephra deposits are overlain conformably with cross-bedded sands throughout most of a 200-m-long section. Coarse alluvial gravels and landslide deposits unconformably overlie the tephra and sand at several locations.

The deposits described are interpreted as an inversely graded, prograding delta sequence composed almost entirely of Mount Mazama tephra. Despite a lack of age control on the rate of tephra deposition, the sedimentology of this section indicates that the tephra delta was deposited within 1 yr or less.

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