Basin and Range Province

Basin and Range Province

The Basin and Range Province is a large geologic province which includes parts of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, typified by basin and range topography.


The province extends east from the Sierra Nevada all the way to the Colorado Plateau and extends south over northern parts of the Baja California Peninsula. This covers parts of the U.S. states of Arizona, California, Idaho, New Mexico, Texas, Oregon, and Utah and virtually all of Nevada (a small northern portion of Elko County, Nevada drains to the Snake River). Basin and Range topography also dominates large parts of the Mexican states of Sonora, Chihuahua, and Baja California. The arid Great Basin is part of this province as well as most of the Sonoran Desert and the Chihuahuan Deserts.


The topography of the Basin and Range is a result of crustal extension within this part of the North American Plate. The cause of this extension is as yet not fully understood, although several hypotheses have been offered. The crust here has been stretched up to 100% of its original width. In fact, the crust underneath the Basin and Range, especially under the Great Basin, is some of the thinnest in the world. Along the roughly north-south-trending faults mountains were uplifted and valleys down-dropped, producing the distinctive alternating pattern of linear mountain ranges and valleys of the Basin and Range province.

Mineral resources

The Basin and Range province supplies nearly all the copper and most of the gold, silver, and barite mined in the United States. A small amount of petroleum is produced within the province, in Nevada.

See also


  • Steven M. Stanley, Earth System History (W.H. Freeman and Company; 1999) pages 537, 540-543, 545 ISBN 0-7167-2882-6
  • Plummer, McGeary, Carlson, Physical Geology, Eight Edition (McGraw-Hill: Boston, 1999) pages 321, 513, 514 ISBN 0-697-37404-1

Further reading

  • Basin and Range by John McPhee, Noonday Press, 1990. ISBN 0-374-51690-1
  • Geology of the American Southwest : A Journey Through Two Billion Years of Plate Tectonic History by W. Scott Baldridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-521-01666-5

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