Creative Depictions of the Ringold Fm

Stratigraphy of the Miocene-Pliocene age Ringold Formation of Eastern Washington has recently drawn my attention. In reviewing the literature, I am struck by two things. One, soft sediment deformation is all but absent in stratigraphic columns. Two, the artistic creativity shown by geologists who have depicted the unit in their reports. It reminds me of reconnaissance-age reports on Rocky Mountain strata of Wyoming. I spent many hours during my graduate school years leafing through old books and maps at the well-stocked Geology Library at the University of Wyoming. Modern reports on the Ringold resemble reports on the Wyoming foreland circa 1955. Work towards understanding of the Ringold, especially its affinity with other formations on both sides of the Cascade Range and in central Idaho is still in its infancy.

Map by Kennedy/Jenks Consultants for the Franklin Conservation District, reported in Triangle Associates (2003).

Ringold is here classified as a sedimentary interbed. The figure infers Ringold are, like the Levey Member interbed, a variant of the Ellensburg Formation. For more than 70 years Ringold sediments in the Pasco Basin have been described as post-basalt deposits. Ebinghaus et al. (2020, Figure 2).

This figure was drafted by committee and has been used in many Hanford Site reports. The first draft appears to be Bjornstad et al. (2001), which was built on decades of rudimentary stratigraphic figures for the Site. The most recent(?) version is provided in Department of Energy (2002) and elsewhere. Williams et al. (2002, p. 3.1) describes why, unlike the rest of the geoscience community, Hanford staff use two different geologic columns to describe the same rocks, "Two separate Hanford Site stratigraphic classifications are available (Figure 3.1); one developed by Lindsey (1995) is based on lithology (labeled Geology Column), and the second, developed by PNNL (Wurstner et al. 1995; Thorne et al. 1993), is the hydrogeologic stratigraphy (labeled Hydrogeologic Column) that combines the geology with the hydrologic properties (see also Wurstner et al. 1995). [Hanford staff] uses PNNL’s hydrogeologic classification because it is more applicable to the problem of addressing groundwater movement in the suprabasalt sediments...This classification is consistent with the site three-dimensional computer models that use this classification and the revised hydrogeology report for the 200-East Area (Williams et al. 2000)".

Reidel and Chamness (2007, Figure 3.4, p. 3.8).

Badger and Galster (2003, Fig. 2) after Galster and Coombs (1989), which was modified from Mackin (161), Reidel and Fecht (1981), and Swanson et al., 1979). Note "fanglomerate" is placed entirely in the Ringold and is truncated by Pleistocene.

Note that 7.5 Ma is used for the base of the Ringold by Reidel et al. (2021, Figure 2).

Reidel and Chamness (2007, Figure 3.5, p. 3.10).

E.P. Gustafson (1978, Figure 3, p. 7). Note the prominent calcrete cap on the Ringold is not shown in the figure. "Lacuna" means "time gap" or the missing interval of time represented by the post-Ringold erosional unconformity (wavy line). This term has never been uttered by a geologist. Paleontologists use it. Gustafson named the Taylor Flat conglomerate (middle Ringold).

Note 5.3 Ma is used for the base of the Ringold by R.J. Carson (2015, p.81). Probably an error.

Excerpt from Carson and Pogue (1997) for Walla Walla and eastern Pasco Basin area. Post-Ringold unconformity not shown.

Mustoe and Leopold (2014) separate the Ringold Fm into "Upper" and "Lower" parts along a sequence-bounding unconformity (Walpapi Synthem-High Cascades Synthem boundary) associated with the topographic rise of the Cascades. Their break differs from Lindsey (1996) and Lindsey (2004).

Williams et al. (2002, Plate 10). An excerpt of a drilling log with hydrogeologic interpretation for Line 3 at the 200 West Area, Hanford Nuclear Site. The line represents a "south-to-north-oriented structural section located west of the 200-West Area that extends from the central axis of the Cold Creek syncline north onto the south flank of the Gable Butte anticline" (p. 4.12).

An example of Hanford's "functional geology" in Williams et al. (2002). I've resorted to calling it "functional" because Hanford's stratigraphic naming convention is not used outside of Hanford (though they so, so, so wish it were).

Smith et al. (2000, Figure 2, p. 6). A figure that juxtaposes two classic Ringold sections: White Bluffs and the Taunton Site railway cut. "l.f." = local fauna.

Reidel and Fecht (1994).

The Hanford subsurface serves as a disposal site for defense-related chemical and radiogenic waste, which wouldn't be a problem except that the stuff has moved. #doh! #foreheadslap #goodjobguys. Williams et al. (2002, Figure 4.12, p. 4.28) "Multiple-source contaminant plume conceptual model for the 200-West Area illustrating vertical displacement of pre-existing plume by more recent contaminant source".

Lindsey and Gaylord (1990, Figure 1, p. 166). No shortage of unconformities here.

Cooley (2019) modified from Hanneman et al. (2003) and Cheney (2016).

Grolier and Bingham (1978) show Ringold unconformable atop Columbia River Basalt and caliche unconformable atop Ringold.

Ward et al. (1997, Figure 1) modified from Caggiano et al. (1996)

Lindsey (1992, Figure 3).

Reidel et al. (1992, Figure 36, p. 41). No calcrete mentioned.

Reidel and Campbell (1989, Fig 3A, p. 280) introduce a "basal" unit to the RIngold. They divide the formation into 4 parts (not 3) on the basis of texture and describe the formation generally as mainstream and sidestream facies of the ancestral Columbia River system. The authors use "system" instead of "channel" because it was a large river, no single channel tract exists, and other large rivers conflued with the ancestral Columbia in an earlier version of the Pasco Basin, similar to today (Snake River enters at Pasco, WA). Reidel and Campbell's basal unit represents a "complete fining-upward fluvial cycle" deposited by a braided-river system (Snipe Mountain Conglomerate equivalent). The "lower " unit is lacustrine. The "middle" unit is composed of stream gravels also deposited by the ancestral Columbia River. The "upper" is the second fine-gained, low-energy lacustrine unit (laminated siltstones with thin sands).

Reidel et al. (1992, Figure 10, p. 9).

Gustafson (2015, Fig 3, p. 7) depicts the White Bluffs in cross section. 1 = Lower White Bluffs local fauna, 2 = Upper White Bluffs local fauna, 3 = Blufftop local fauna, 4 = River Road local fauna, PG = Pleistocene gravel (outburst flood deposits), SL = Sea Level, WBT = White Bluffs Tuff.

Gustafson (2015, Fig 4, p. 8) shows the fossil location information (local faunas) alongside the lithology column. He found Bretzia fossils (Pliocene deer) in the White Bluffs Local Fauna within the "member of Taylor Flat". Other fossils of the White Bluffs Local Fauna include horse, bear, peccary, camel, rhinos, fishes, saber-tooth cat, canids, mustelids, and microtine rodents. The White Bluffs Tuff does not appear to be shown in this figure. Gustafson's previous articles always show it and use it as an important marker bed within the "member of Savage Island/Upper Ringold Fm". The Snipes Mountain Conglomerate, well exposed in Yakima Valley, is included here with the Ringold Fm. The "Lower Ringold Fm/Blue Clay level" is rarely exposed and known almost entirely from well logs. The "Blufftop Local Fauna" occur in the upper part of the 2nd of three consecutive lake-filling sequences in the Savage Island. Each lake begins with a diatomite bed. It is important to note the "member of Ringold Flat" in the left column is not the "Taylor Flat conglomerate" in the right column. This can be a significant source of confusion when reading the literature on the Ringold.

Lindsey (1992, Figure 4).

Lindsey (1992, Figure 6).

Bjornstad and Lanigan (2007, Figure 2.2).

Hydrostrat at 100-H Tank Farm (Liikala et al., 1988)

Fecht et al. (1985, Figure 13)

Lindsey et al. (2004, Figure 3)

Excerpt from Fecht et al. (1985, Figure 2)

Map by T.W. Symons (1882). Early geologic maps of the Pasco Basin area show "Ancient Lake Lewis" and tend to lump into a single unit what we today divide into Missoula flood deposits and the Ringold Formation. The first couple of USGS reconnaissance surveys called all of these sediments "the John Day system", which further confuses the matter.


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