Reconstruction of paleoenvironments of the Great Salt Lake Basin during the late Cenozoic

Agata Kowalewska, Andrew S. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


This study summarizes the results of micropaleontological, sedimentological, and isotope geochemical analyses of cuttings from five deep wells drilled in the Great Salt Lake (Utah, USA). Spanning the last 5.0 million yrs, our environmental history of the Great Salt Lake distinguishes four intervals based on paleobiological and sedimentological characteristics, using a previously developed tephrochronology for age control. For most of its history, the Great Salt Lake Basin has been occupied by a mixture of marsh, shallow lacustrine and sand flat conditions. In contrast, open lake conditions, typical of the Bonneville cycles and the modern Great Salt Lake apparently have only dominated the basin for the past 0.64-0.8 Ma. The two main structural basins in the study area (the North and South Basins) experienced different lacustrine histories. Large but frequently saline lakes occupied the North Basin after about 0.6 Ma. In the South Basin, ephemeral, saline lacustrine conditions started at 2.1 Ma and developed to full lacustrine conditions at 0.3 Ma. Our paleoenvironmental interpretations are broadly consistent with the aquatic palynological records from the same wells, as well as with the prior core- and outcrop-based lines of evidence. However, the differences in lake history between the North and South Basin have not been previously recognized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-407
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Paleolimnology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1998


  • Great Salt Lake
  • Ostracode
  • Paleoecology
  • Paleolimnology
  • Pleistocene
  • Pliocene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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