by: Charles O’Dale

  • Type: Complex
  • Age ma: <250aTRIASSIC
  • Diameter: 5 kmb
  • Location: N 56° 27’ W 104° 29’
  • Shock Metamorphism:  quartz and feldspar PDF

a Dating Method: 40Ar-39Ar, pre-1977 K-Ar, 40Ar-39Ar and Rb-Sr ages recalculated using the decay constants of Steiger and Jager (1977) Ages in millions of years (Ma) before present (UNB 2012).

b The Gow structure, with a diameter of ~5 km, is one of the smallest currently known complex impact structures in crystalline target rocks on earth (Grieve 2006).

Saskatchewan, Canada – Gow Lake and Deep Bay craters,Carswell, Dumas, Elbow, Maple Creek and Viewfield impact structures. Yellow = ATHABASCA FORMATION, Pink = PRECAMBRIAN BASEMENT COMPLEX, Grey = INTERIOR PLAINS. Courtesy Breaking Science News at Sci-News.com Science Website.
Gow Crater – Saskatchewan (Google image).
Gow Impact crater looking west from GOZooM.
Gow Impact Crater – Saskatchewan (Courtesy NASA).

The Gow impact occurred at the time of the Permian–Triassic (P–Tr) extinction event.

The red dot represents the approximate area of the Gow impact 250 million years ago at the time of the Permian–Triassic (P–Tr) extinction event.

Gow Lake was named after James R. Gow, a war casualty. It is a roughly circular lake with a prominant central island located in the Precambrian Shield of northern Saskatchewan. The country rocks are predominantly quartz-feldspathic gneisses. Impact rock contains 40-45% identifiable clastic debris, which includes quartz and feldspar with planar deformation features (Osinski 2012).

Systematic mapping of the island revealed an almost complete stratigraphy from the brecciated and fractured “basement”, up through a series of lithic breccias, impact melt-bearing breccias, impact melt rocks and, towards the top, further impact melt-bearing breccias intercalated with the melt rocks. It is notable that the highest point on the island comprises a large, steeply sided outcrop of green impact melt rock. There is an almost complete sequence of impactites that represent the crater-fill of the Gow Lake impact structure. Such sequences of rocks are very rare at terrestrial impact structures and rarer still exposed at the surface. As such, Gow Lake offers important insights into the stratigraphy of impactites produced during impact into relatively homogenous crystalline target (Osinski 2012).

Gow Crater – east
Gow Crater – north.

Gow Lake, in the Precambrian Shield of Saskatchewan, is circular, 4 km in diameter, and has a large central island.

These aerial images with the haze created by forest fires in BC, were taken from GO ZooM on our trip to the west coast in 2012. At the time we took these images, the Saskatchewan prairies 100 km to the south were experiencing severe thunderstorms and tornadoes!!

Gow Crater north west shore.

Granites and quartz-feldspathic gneisses are exposed around the perimeter of the lake, whereas the island is formed largely of brecciated equivalents. Most of the breccias are composed entirely of clastic material, but at one locality fine-grained felted matrices form a significant component of the breccias, and coronas of clear glass surround quartz grains. The latter breccias also contain microscopic features characteristic of shock metamorphism, among which multiple sets of planar deformation structures in quartz are particularly diagnostic. Similar shock metamorphic features have been widely reported from terrestrial meteorite craters; accordingly, Gow Lake is interpreted as a deeply eroded impact crater and the felted matrices as impact melts. A local negative gravity anomaly with an amplitude of 3 mGal centered on the lake is attributed mainly to highly fractured basement rocks underlying the lake, which model studies indicate may extend to a depth of 900 m. A provisional minimum age of 100 Ma is proposed for the crater. Thomas et al (1977).

Meteoritics, v. 12, pp. 370-371. 1977.

We took these images of the Gow Crater flying in from the east and leaving the area to the west.



Brent Dalrymple, Radiometric Dating Does Work! Reports of the National Center for Science Education

Grieve R.A.F., Impact structures in Canada, Geological Association of Canada, 2006.

G. R. Osinski, A. C. Singleton, A. Ozaruk, and J. R. Hansen, NEW INVESTIGATIONS OF THE GOW LAKE IMPACT STRUCTURE, SASKATCHEWAN, CANADA. University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada, 2012.

Thomas, M. D., Innes, M.J.S., Dence, M.R., Grieve, R.A.F. and Robertson,P.B., Gow Lake, Saskatchewan: Evidence for an origin by meteorite impact (abstract). Meteoritics, v. 12, pp. 370-371. 1977.

University of New Brunswick, Earth Impact Data Base, 2012.