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by: Charles O'Dale


Presqu'Ile Impact structure Quebec
The 7 km diameter remnant of the Presqu’ile Impact Structure is displayed as the circled Lac de la Presqu’ile at the bottom and just to left of center of this landsat image. In the upper right corner is the Isle Rouleau Impact Structure, a small island in the south end of Lake Mistassini (small circle).
  • Age (ma): <500
  • Diameter: 24 km
  • Location: Quebec, Canada. N 49° 43' W 74° 48'
  • Shock Metamorphism: Shatter cones best developed in massive, fine-grained rhyodacites, up to 60 cm long (Higgins and Tait, 1990). Neither PDF in quartz or other minerals nor evidence of microbrecciation has been found at this impact site.
  • Dating Method: No reliable age, the age estimate is based on the high degree of erosion (see text).

* The term "structure" is used to define an impact crater that is severely altered by erosion.

The red dot represents the approximate area of the Presquile impact 500 million years ago in the Cambrian Period.
An estimated 3000 m of vertical erosion has taken place in this area over the eons and has completely erased the original crater structure. The target rocks are Precambrian, crystalline Archean aged tonalite and metabasalts of the Abitibi greenstone belt. The documented gravity and aeromagnetic fields in this region are dominated by signatures related to the Presqu’ile tonalite intrusion, and show no evidence of a cryptic circular structure (MERQ, 1982; MRN, 1976, 1978).

Aerial Exploration

Presqu'Ile Impact structure - west.
The low relief of the region illustrated in this image (left)of the impact remnant lake taken from the north west. The absence of high-pressure shock metamorphism from the floor of the structure that would be produced by a crater of this size, indicates a prolonged post-impact and preglacial erosion event. The age of the impact is difficult to establish, though it is clearly post-metamorphic (approximately 2.7 Ga) and pre-glacial. Together this data suggests a minimum age for the impact event of several hundred million years (Higgins and Tait, 1990).
Shatter cone.
Presqu'Ile Impact structure - shatter cone finds.
Shatter-cones are evidence of a nearby meteorite impact. The only other way to produce these geological features is by large explosions such as a nuclear explosion. The shatter cone in this image (left) is one example found in the Presque'ile structure (Grieve 2006). The shatter cone image is courtesy of Denis W. Roy, MIAC

Poorly exposed segments of shatter cones are exposed at three points on Lac de la Presqu’ile in Obatogamau basalts or basalt xenoliths in tonalite. The “X” indicators mark the areas where shatter cones were recovered from within the lake area. This image of Lac de la Presqu’ile was taken from the east approximately 1000’ above the ground.

Presqu'Ile Impact structure - north east.
Another source of shatter cones was discovered in the area to the east of the impact remnant lake, directly under where I took this image (left). This six km diameter circle of shatter cones is used to determine the original size of the crater. If the lake is taken as the center of the impact and considering that shatter cones die out at 0.5 X diameter (Robertson, 1975) then the crater probably had an original diameter of 24 km (Higgins et al, 1990).
Presqu'Ile Impact structure - east (Chaplais in background).
The town of Chaplais is visible in the background of this view (right) of the impact remnant lake taken from the south east. Presqu’ile is classified as a complex meteorite crater due to the 24 km estimated diameter. For terrestrial craters the transition between simple and complex classification is 4 km in crystalline rocks.

This structure was one of the most fascinating geological sites that I had explored from the air. Reflecting on the extent of the surface erosion that had occurred in this area, the original land surface was probably hundreds of feet ABOVE the altitude where my airplane was flying when I took these images!! The island-like peninsula in the lake is probably the shattered basement rock remnant which originally was several tens of meters under the central peak of the crater.

Ground Exploration of the Presqu’ile Impact Structure

Following my impact crater exploration tradition, in the summer of 2007 I was finally able to explore the Presqu’ile impact structure. I accomplished this with the help of my exploration partner, Eric Kujala (who has accompanied me on many other exploration trips).

The surrounding topography of Presqu’ile is one of rolling hills without any indication of a crater rim. The suggestive circular shape of Lac de la Presqu’ile is the only indication of a cosmic collision event in this area. The discovery of shatter cones in the local bedrock confirmed that this structure was created by an impact event. Shatter cones are shock-deformation features that form from impact pressures of typically 2-10 GPa up to ~30 GPa. They represent the only distinctive and unique shock-deformation feature that develops on a megascopic scale (e.g., hand sample to outcrop scale). They appear in outcrops as distinctively curved striated fractures that typically form partial or complete conical structures (image). They are commonly found beneath impact crater floors, usually in the central uplifts of complex impact structures, but they may also be observed in isolated rock fragments within brecciated units.
Presqu'Ile Impact structure - shatter cone find within the lake structure.
Presqu'Ile Impact structure - quartz find with shatter cones.
Eric and I had just driven south from Mistassini after our exploration of the Isle Rouleau structure and we completed a short little "recce" in the west Presqu'ile lake before nightfall. We were exploring in the south end of the west lake when a fairly substantial line squall almost caught us in the open. We high-tailed it in our canoe to the lee of one of the islands and waited the storm out. We sat there for awhile discussing life, the universe and everything but the rain didn't stop. So I thought, what the heck, I'm getting out of the canoe and have a look at a couple of these rocks. The first rock I picked up was a shatter cone! I don't think this area has ever been explored, the shatter cones were not disturbed.

I also found a rock containing quartz crystals. At home in my lab with my personal microscope, I did a substantial search within these crystals for any planar deformation features (pdf). My initial search did not detect pdf. Substantial processing of the sample would be required to complete a detailed study of these crystals to possibly identify pdf within this quartz sample.

Presqu'Ile Impact structure - Eric at portage to crater rim area.
Presqu'Ile Impact structure - shatter cone find outside lake structure.
On our second day of exploring the Presqu’ile structure, we explored the eastern area of the structure. From the eastern lake we paddled further to the east via a small creek toward the bedrock where the original shatter cones were discovered. Via canoe, the trip to the eastern shatter cones was about a 10 kilometres (~6.2 miles) from our campsite. We had to “climb” over some rapids to get to our shatter-cone-in-bedrock-destination.

After climbing a series of rapids we arrived at the site of the original “bedrock shatter cone” discovery. These shatter cones and shatter-coned surfaces occur within massive meta-basalt and rhyodacite 5 km east of Lac de la Presqu’ile. The cones have apical angles of ~90° and their apparent position is vertical (Higgins and Tait, 1990). It was very satisfying to find the bedrock site where the original discovery of the shattercones was made. It was these shattercones that made the firm assessment that the Presqu’ile structure was the result of a cosmic collision.


Richard A.F. Grieve, Impact Structures in Canada. Geological Association of Canada, 2006.

Michael Higgins and Larry Tait, A possible new impact structure near Lac de la Presqu’ile, Quebec, Canada” Meteoritics 25, 235-236,1990.

Ministere d'Energie et Resources du Quebec, Leve aeroporte INPUT dans le region du lac Doda, 1982.

Ministere des Resources Naturelles, Quebec, Resultats d'un leve INPUT, dans la region de la Dauversiere, 1976.

Ministere des Resources Naturelles, Quebec, Resultats d'un leve INPUT, dans la region d'Opermisca, 1978.1975.

Robertson, P.B., Zones of shock metamorphism at the Charlevoix impact structure, Quebec: Geological Society of America Bulletin. V. 86 p 1630-1638,

Earth Impact Database

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