Tag Archives: Arkansas River Valley

Geo-pic of the week: Dardanelle Rock

dardanelle rock from river

Pictured above is Dardanelle Rock located on the south side of the Arkansas River between the towns of Dardanelle and Russellville. The white truck in the lower right corner shows the scale of this outcrop. It was designated a Natural Area by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission in 1976.

The Arkansas River Valley is north of the Ouachita Mountains and is characterized by gently folded sedimentary rock that was subject, to a lesser extent, to the stress that folded the Ouachita Mountains.  The rock pictured here is the south limb of a broad syncline, or down-warped fold.  The north limb is about two miles to the northeast.  The bedrock dips to the north (toward the white truck), goes sub-surface beneath the Arkansas River, then reverses dip direction and rises back to the surface just southwest of Russellville.  If you could see a cross-section of the folded rock, it would look like giant a smiley face with the middle of the smile underground and the corners sticking up in opposite directions, two miles apart.

This picture gives perspective to the colossal size of geologic features geologists study.  Folds like this one, which can trap upward-migrating fluid, are sometimes rich oil and gas reservoirs.

GeoPic of the Week: Turtle Rocks at Petit Jean State Park

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“Turtle Rocks” are unique, mounded polygonal structures that resemble turtle shells. These features are found along the Arkansas River Valley in the Hartshorne Sandstone, a brown to light gray, massive, medium-grained sandstone deposited during the Pennsylvanian Period by ancient river systems. The processes that generate “turtle rocks” are not clearly understood. One explanation suggests that these features were created by a process known as spheroidal weathering, a form of chemical weathering that occurs when water percolates through the rock and between individual sand grains. These grains loosen and separate from the rock, especially along corners and edges where the most surface area is exposed, which widens the rock’s natural fractures creating a rounded, turtle-like shape. Additionally, iron is leached from the rock and precipitated at the surface creating a weathering rind known as case hardening. These two processes along with the polygonal joint pattern contribute to this weathering phenomenon.

Statemap Field Blog—Nov 12-14, 2013

Hello all!

This week we took a break from our regular field area, and were treated to a three days of field trips relating to the sparse though important igneous rocks of Arkansas led by our own Mike Howard.  Mike, who is regarded as the preeminent expert on the mineralogy of Arkansas, will be retiring in a few weeks after a 39 year career at our agency,

We stopped at numerous locations in Pope, Conway, Pulaski, Saline, Hot Spring, and Pike counties.  The first day, we headed up to the northernmost igneous intrusion in the state which is north of Dover just off Highway 7 on Dare Knob.  From there we stopped at several carbonatite sills (igneous intrusions that follow sedimentary bedding planes) in the Arkansas River Valley near Oppelo.

2013-11-13 0052013-11-13 0012013-11-13 0132013-11-13 014The next day we started out with a visit to the 3M quarry on Granite Mountain.  Granite Mountain is actually a relatively small exposure of an igneous batholith which extends to an area of over 250 square miles in the subsurface.  Also, it is not actually granite at all, but nepheline syenite.    It is being processed mainly into roofing granules.  The other large active quarry in the area, Granite Mountain Quarry, produces mostly aggregate materials.

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From there we went to Bauxite where we saw a large olistolith in the syenite.  A xenolith is a piece of the country rock that is incorporated into the melt of an igneous intrusion.  In this case the country rock was probably Jackfork Sandstone as evidenced by tight folding in a quartzitic rock slightly metamorphosed by contact with the igneous body.   From there we made several stops in the Magnet Cove area, where we saw broken phenocrysts (large crystals in a finer matrix) of pseudoleucite, carbonatite, garnet, rutile and pyrite.2013-11-13 0372013-11-13 040

We also saw the largest barite pit in the U.S. (now abandoned), and a nearby vein of smoky quartz that was easily accessible.

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The next day we drove to the diamond mine at Murfreesboro, with which Mike has had an association since even before it was made a state park.  I found a good barite crystal, but unfortunately, no diamonds.

These trips were attended by almost the entire staff, and we much appreciated getting to see these rare rocks and minerals with knowledgeable commentary by the state’s most expert resident.  We will miss having him at the survey to answer our many questions, but hope that he enjoys many years of well-deserved leisure activities.  Thanks, Mike!!

Until next week, I’ll see you on the outcrop!

GeoPic of the Week: Polygonal cracking in sandstone, Arkansas River Valley

Polygonal cracking in sandstone, Arkansas River ValleyPolygonal cracking in sandstone, Arkansas River Valley

Many of the sandstone formations in Arkansas develop a distinct weathered surface like the picture above. This pattern consists of polygonal plates that die out within a few centimeters depth and is a form of tessellation or commonly called ‘elephant skin weathering’. The plates may be flat or convex upward and usually follow the curvature of the outcrop. It is thought that a crust of minerals such as silica (quartz), iron, and manganese develops on the surface of the sandstone. This crust or skin then cracks due to changing surface stresses much like a glaze develops cracks on a ceramic surface. This explanation also applies to the development of “turtle rocks” at Petit Jean State Park and “40 acre rock” in Russellville. The majority of these features are present in the Hartshorne Sandstone in the Arkansas River Valley.