Tushar Range, Utah


This is home….I was raised on the Tushar Mountains. The Tushar Mountain-Range is bounded roughly by I-15 to the west, I-70 to the north, US-89 to the east and U-20 to the south. U-153 crosses the southern part of the range between Beaver and Junction, Utah.

Map of the Tushar Mountains east of Beaver, Utah.

Even though this was my back yard, I hardly could include every beautiful place on this Mountain Range. However, I’ve included some of my most favorite places.

Puffer Lake in 1964. My father Patrick Lindsay holding me and standing next to my brother Kriston and Jennifer.

The Tushar Mountains are the third highest mountain range in Utah after the Uinta Range and the La Sol Range. Located in the Fishlake National Forest, (I worked for the Forest Service for about 6 years as a young man).

Puffer Lake during early June of 1993. A totally natural and full lake.

The Tushar Mountains consist of the Bullion Canyon Volcanics from 22-35 million years ago and the Mount Belknap Volcanics from roughly 21 million years ago. The Tushar Mountain area is in a local volcanic field the accumulated around a cluster of volcanoes at the northeast end of a broad belt of volcanic rocks and mineral districts, (the Pioche mineral belt). Imaged below, this belt extends east-northeastward from south-eastern Nevada, to central Utah, 65 km beyond Marysvale, Utah.

Map of the Tushar Range, (Marysville) & Pioche volcanic belt. (image image came from Guidebook to Mineral Deposits of Southwestern Utah UGAP 7 1978)

The character of erupted rocks changed from time to time, however, and three general rock assemblages are recognized: intermediate-composition volcanics, locally voluminous silicic-alkalic rhyolite tuffs and lava flows, and basin-fill fluviatile deposits with interbedded basalt and rhyolite lava flows.

Indian Creek Reservoir on the northwestern side of the Tushar Range and on the northwestern side of the Mount Belknap caldera, (photo taken in 2006).

About 21 m.y. ago, the composition of erupted volcanic rock changed abruptly to dominantly silicic-alkalic rhyolite. Between then and 17 m.y. ago, locally voluminous ash-flow tuffs and lava flows were eropted from two source areas near Marysvale, (one in the southern Antelope Range and eastern Tushar Mountains 7-10 km north and northeast of Marysvale), and the other in the Mount Belknap caldera in the central Tushar Mountains.

A July of 2013, look at Puffer Lake, looking North West towards our old family cabin. Mount Holly can barely be seen on the right
Puffer Lake in 2013; Looking Northeast at Puffer Lake Peak and Mount Holly on the left.

Catastrophic eruptions with large volumes of ash deposited as far north as Richfield forming the Joe Lott Tuff Member and led to the collapse of the Mount Belknap caldera 19 million years ago.

Some of my students at Castle Rock Campground in 2004; (they are exploring the Joe Lott Tuff within the northern section of the Tushar Range)

Pictured above, the Joe Lott Tuff erupted as a large avalanche of volcanic ash, rock, and gas. The Joe Lott Tuff is a light tan to pink-brown rock primarily composed of welded ash with quartz and feldspar crystals, glass fragments, and larger fragments of gray pumice and darker volcanic rocks. So much material was effected during the eruption that the roof of the magma chamber collapsed due to the loss of interior support, creating the Mount Belknap caldera, located about 16 km to the southwest.

A map of the Tushar Range Volcanic Calderas, (image came from Guidebook to Mineral Deposits of Southwestern Utah UGAP 7 1978)

Not long after this eruption (geologically speaking, 1 or 2 million years), the Earth’s crust here and to the west began to be stretched westward. During this initial phase of basin-range extension, sediments were eroded off higher areas and deposited in river channels, flood plains, and lakes, eventually filling in valley and canyons with layers of siltstone, mudstone, sandstone, and conglomerate.

Our family cabin next to Puffer Lake during the summer of 2013.

Fluvial, eolian, and glacial activity has largely eroded these volcanics. Sulphur-laden deposits with their distinctive yellow color are also visible in this region and attest to the later stages of the volcanic activity.

My sister’s painting of Puffer Lake, “Jennifer Lindsay/Palmer”

Overall, the Tushars are the remnants of a long succession of volcanoes that erupted from 5 -35 million years ago.

June of 1981; my wife, (Becky) and I are posing south of Mt. Baldy on the left and Mt. Belknap on the right.

Extensional basin-range tectonism in the western United States, which apparently began in the Tushar Range area with the initial structural separation of the High Plateaus and the Great Basin sometime between 28 and 22 m.y. ago, progressed to widespread block faulting after eruption of the Mount Belknap Volcanics. This block faulting was especially active during late Miocene and Pliocene time, but some Holocene scarps indicate that deformation is still going on, although perhaps at a reduced rate. But much of the faulting imaged below was formed during this time.

Geological Map showing the faulting and rock types in the Mount Belknap Volcanics, (image is public domain from the USGS).
Our honeymoon tent on Big John’s Flat on the Tusher Mountains 1981
Becky is posing at a waterfall in Poison Creek off of Mount Holly near Big John’s Flat in 1981
Poison Creek near Big John’s Flat in 1981

The Tushar Mountains are composed of a whole slew of igneous rock types including obsidian, basalt and andesite flow, breccias, tuffs, ash flows, silicates, rhyolite and granitic intrusions. The total thickness of these deposits exceeds 3,500 m.

Photo taken in 2013, just south of Mt. Shelly near “Mud-lake” looking north towards Mt. Baldy on the left and Mt. Belknap on the right. “Blue lake is seen at the foot of Mt. Belknap.

Pictured below, many of these volcanic rocks are rich in mineral deposits, including ores of gold, silver, mercury, copper, lead, zinc, uranium, manganese, iron, aluminum, and potassium. Mineralization took place at many times during middle and late Cenozoic volcanism. The earliest that has been documented took place in the cores of some of the old intermediate-composition volcanics. In the eastern and northern parts of the Tushar Mountains, the quartz monzonite intrusive core of a volcano was emplaced about 23 m.y. ago; the intrusive and surrounding volcanic rocks were widely propylitized, and gold- and silver-bearing quartz-calcite-pyrite veins were deposited in northwest-trending fractures.

Bullion Canyon Gold & Silver Mine (Bully Boy) remnant near Marysville, Utah; (photo taken by Marc Curtis in 2004)

Pictured above, Bullion Canyon is the site of epithermal north-trending gold veins mined at the Bully Boy, Cascade, and Shamrock mines. Discovered in 1868, the ores produced almost $4 million, mostly in gold.

Getting ready to hike down to “Blue Lake” near Mt. Belknap

Pictured above is Mount Baldy at 12,090 feet (3,690 m) and Mount Belknap at 12,137 feet (3,699 m). Both formed on the cusp of the Mount Belknap Caldera (once a volcano).

On the trail towards “Blue Lake” and looking up and west towards Mount Baldy.

Mount Belknap and Baldy of the Tushars were formed between 22 and 32 million years ago by volcanic activity that included a calamitous explosion that blew off the top of a massive peak leaving these two peaks behind.

“Blue Lake” at the foot of Mount Belknap and at the top of North Creek Fork. Photo taken in 2013. (Blue is not seen close up). This lake is unable to support fish for some reason.

The Tushars have at least seven high alpine glaciated canyons, Cottonwood Canyon, North Fork of Cottonwood Canyon, South Fork Basin, The Pocket Basin, Bullion Basin, Beaver Basin and City Creek Basin. All were heavily glaciated during the last ice age.

A look down “South Creek Basin” towards Beaver, Utah.

Pictured above, the Altered Zone excels in the Colorado Plateau for showing the effects of hot water or hydrothermal activity of igneous rocks and the development of clays in the weathering process associated with the late phases of igneous activity. The highly altered, brightly colored rocks associated with a variety of igneous intrusions and extrusions make this area distinct and virtually unique in the Colorado Plateau.

On Circleville Mountain, looking north towards Mount Baldy and Belknap in the distance. This is the rim of another Caldera called the Circleville Mountain Caldera. (Picture taken 2013)

Pictured above, is an outcrop of a white silicate rock that my Father wanted me to make a headstone out-of. It was a highly resistant, tightly compacted Quartz that contained red, green and black veins. He died in May of 2012.

Looking towards Mount Baldy and Holly, across “Big Flat” in 1981

Pictured above, is the Big Flat of Tushar Range. Under this flat is a zoned center of mineralization of an altered core caldera with high-grade veins of alunite, surrounded by propylitically altered volcanic rocks containing gold- and silver-bearing quartz-calcite veins along the northern flank, and sedimentary rocks with manto deposits of gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc on the east. Sericite from a manto deposit and alunite from the core area gave ages of 13-14 m.y..

Photo taken in Fall of 1982 of Kent’s Lake near Circleville Mtn.; (behind the lake is actually Birch Creek Mountain……west of Circleville Mtn.)

Pictured above, the Tushars support alpine and sub-alpine vegetation, mountain meadows, dense aspen, sub-alpine fir, Engelmann Spruce, five needle pine and some Douglas Fir, mountain brush, sagebrush steppe, pinion-juniper woodlands, oak, mountain mahogany, and upland mountain grasslands.

Photo taken in the fall of 1982 of Upper Kent’s Lake. This is my father and mother. Patrick and Louise Lindsay (both passed away).

Pictured above, Circleville Mountain contains a sequence of resistant, dark-gray to black, vesicular to dense lava flows and autoclastic flow of porphyritic basaltic andesite.

Looking South toward “Strawberry Flat” from Merchant Valley in 1982
Looking off of the cliffs of “Strawberry Flat” down Beaver Canyon and Dry Hollow in 1982.
My “Forest Service” crew, building a fence at “South Creek” in 1982
“Cherry Creek & Dog Valley” on the southside of the Tushar Mountains

Pictured above, looking southeast towards Spry, Utah from Cherry Creek are the tan rocks of the Spry laccolith. The 30 m.y.-old (Oligocene) pluton is exposed throughout and area of about 130 square kilometers. Ranges from monzonite to dacite porphyry. Formed a topographic high against which ignimbrites that were deposited before the Bear Valley Formation lapped and on which no deposition of Bear Valley took place.

Posing with my “Work Horse named Newt” on the Forest Service in 1982 at “Cherry Creek” on the southern portion of the Tushar Mountains

On the northeastern part of the Tusher Range and located a few miles north of Marysvale, Big Rock Candy Mountain consists of altered volcanic rock in various shades of yellow, orange, red, and white, (pictured below). Approximately 22 – 35 million y.a., a cluster of stratovolcanoes erupted, depositing large volumes of lava and ash. Known as the Bullion Canyon Volcanics, these volcanic rocks are more than 1,000 m thick. Approximately 21 million years ago, at least six magma bodies intruded the overlying Bullion Canyon Volcanics. Through a complex chemical process involving hydrogen sulfide, steam, ground water, and oxygen, the original volcanic rock was partially altered or totally replaced. The vivid colors that one sees at Big Rock Candy Mountain are the direct result of this mineralization. The yellow, orange, and red colors are from the presence of iron minerals, such as hematite, and pyrite. The white color is due to the presence of alunite and kaolinite, minerals rich in potassium and Aluminum. Over the past 15 million years, erosion has removed the distinct shapes of the former volcanoes, and within the past several million years has exposed the altered volcanic rocks in Marysvale Canyon along the Sevier River.

Becky posing in front of the “Big Rock Candy Mountain” on the northeastern portion of the Tushar Mountains

The Deer Trail Mine is near Marysvale, Utah on the eastern side of the Tushar Mountains. Pictured below, the mine operations consist of underground workings. There is one inclined shaft. Subsurface depth reaches a maximum of 232 meters and extends 39,624 meters in length. The ore mined is composed of gold, galena and silver with waste material consisting primarily of fluorite. The ore body is tabular shaped 1,219 meters long, 121 meters wide, and 12 meters thick. The host rock in this area is limestone from 259.80 to 252.17 million years ago (Permian Toroweap Formation).

I’m posing in front of the “Electric Mine-Car”, inside the Deer Trail Mine near Marysville, Utah.

The Deer Trail, which was discovered in 1878, has produced more than $6 million in lead, zinc, silver, and gold; ores contain some mercury, selenium, and thallium.

The house I was raised in Beaver, Utah, (west of the Tusher Range Mountains).
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