Turbidity-current overflow from Cascadia Channel near its western exit from the Blanco Fracture Zone has formed the Tufts submarine fan, which extends more than 350 km south on the Pacific Plate to the Mendocino Fracture Zone. For this study, available 3.5-kHz high-resolution and airgun seismic-reflection data, long-range side-scan sonar images, and sediment core data are used to define the growth pattern of the fan. Tufts fan deposits have smoothed and filled in the linear ridge-and-valley relief over an area exceeding 23,000 km2 on the west flank of the Gorda Ridge. The southernmost part of the fan is represented by a thick (as much as 500 m) sequence of turbidite deposits ponded along more than 100 km of the northern flank of the Mendocino Fracture Zone. Growth of the Tufts fan now permits turbidity-current overflow from Cascadia Channel to reach the Escanaba Trough, a deep rift valley along the southern axis of the Gorda Ridge.
Scientific drilling during both the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) and the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) provided evidence that the 500-m-thick sediment fill of Escanaba Trough is dominantly sandy turbidites. Radiocarbon dating of the sediment at ODP Site 1037 showed that deposition of most of the upper 120 m of fill was coincident with Lake Missoula floods and that the provenance of the fill is from the eastern Columbia River drainage basin. The Lake Missoula flood discharge with its entrained sediment continued flowing downslope upon reaching the ocean as hyperpycnally generated turbidity currents. These huge turbidity currents followed the Cascadia Channel to reach the Pacific Plate, where overbank flow provided a significant volume of sediment on Tufts fan and in Escanaba Trough. Tufts fan and Tufts Abyssal Plain to the west probably received turbidite sediment from the Cascadia margin during much of the Pleistocene.
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