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Lake Bonneville

and the Wasatch Fault

A Geological Murder Mystery

What follows is the story of a very large multi-segment earthquake on the Wasatch Fault at a time when Lake Bonneville was at its highest level.  The earthquake caused massive surging and a tsunami in Lake Bonneville.  That surging carried up into Cache Valley and overwhelmed the natural dam formed by the Marsh Creek delta on the other side of Red Rock Pass in Zenda, Idaho.  The Bonneville Flood ensued.

I first presented this theory and the associated theories were presented at the 2020 and 2022 Geological Society of America conferences and in YouTube videos posted in 2021.  Those theories challenge a whole list of underlying assumptions regarding Lake Bonneville, the climate and the Wasatch Fault. 

In trying to write everything up into the form of a technical paper, I continued to encounter aspects of the previous theories regarding the lake that just didn't seem to fit what I could observe in the field.  A lot of thought experiments later, and a number of instances of waking in the early morning hours and exclaiming "oh" and thinking "well, that can't be right", we are now here. 

I have answered the key questions that I had.  I had fun.  Unfortunately, if the effort was to have meaning, Ihad to write it all down and try and find someplace that would allow some retired engineer to achieve "peer review".  

I found that at the open source publishing site Qeios.  The theories seem to be standing up to peer review, but my technical writing abilities are not.

The paper is long..., I mean really long.,, sorry.  But if you wade through it, I'd like to think you'll be at the forefront of Lake Bonneville theory (though those who don't believe engineers have a place in "science" will say this gets you at the forefront of Lake Bonneville controversy).

In any case, have fun with it, but realize that these new theories bring to the forefront some very important issues, and addressing some of them is going to be very difficult.

A link to the paper is provided below.


 Rick Spedden

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The Technical Paper  with the New Theories

Spedden, Richard H. (2023). Lake Bonneville and the Wasatch Fault – new theories and new paradigms yield insights into present-day hazards in other regions of the world. Qeios. doi:10.32388/G4DAH0.2.

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Tsunami, Seiche and Surging

Earthquake effects on bodies of water

A key point in this discussion is the effect that earthquakes can have on bodies of water.  Above is a short video defining terms as I use them in the GSA paper.  Tsunami and Seiche are well-know effects of an earthquake on bodies of water.  In this case I had to introduce a third phenomena predicted by physics: surging.

To understand the potential force of these waves one only needs to view the videos from the 2011 Japanese tsunami.  A few feet of water overtopping the tidal barrier had tremendous force.

TSUNAMI in Miyako Final Documentary - YouTube

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“When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

― Arthur Conan Doyle

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