Tag Archives: Fayetteville Shale

Notes from the Field: Weathers and Delaney Quadrangles

 

Parthenon in Felkins Creek

Parthenon Sandstone overlying Brentwood Limestone on Felkins Creek, Weathers quadrangle

Recently, geologists at the Arkansas Geological Survey (AGS) completed geologic mapping of the Weathers and Delaney quadrangles in northwest Arkansas. These quadrangles are part of the U. S. Geological Survey’s 7.5-minute topographic series and cover an area of approximately 120 square miles. This project was made possible by a grant from the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program of which STATEMAP is a part. This year marks the 25th year of STATEMAP projects in Arkansas and represents an unprecedented commitment to gathering data on the geologic features of our State. STATEMAP was established in 1992 by an act of Congress to encourage the states to map their geology at the 1:24,000 scale. The first grant received by the Arkansas Geological Survey, then known as the Arkansas Geological Commission, was for a proposal in fiscal year 1994.  Since that time, eighty, 1:24,000-scale geologic maps have been completed, including the Weathers and Delaney quads.

Printed copies of the new geologic maps (and many others) are available at the AGS office in Little Rock for $12.50, but they are also available as a free download in .pdf form on our website. Here’s the link to the Delaney Quadrangle:

https://www.geology.arkansas.gov/docs/pdf/maps-and-data/geologic_maps/24k/Delaney.pdf

Geologic Map of Delaney Quadrangle

And here’s the link to the Weathers Quadrangle:

https://www.geology.arkansas.gov/docs/pdf/maps-and-data/geologic_maps/24k/Weathers.pdf

Geologic Map of Weathers Quadrangle

STATEMAP, which is administered by the U. S. Geological Survey, provides Arkansas with federal dollars through an annual grant proposal process. These funds are matched by the AGS which then performs all the work necessary to produce new geologic maps for the State. This year’s grant enabled the AGS to hire a geologist and to partially cover expenses incurred during field work. Garry Hatzell and staff geologist Richard Hutto worked together as a team during the data collection and map production phases of the project. This team approach has worked well for the AGS during its long history of geologic mapping, both for safety and efficiency.

The goal of STATEMAP is to classify bedrock exposed at the surface into recognizable units, such as formations and members, based on a common lithology—basically, an areal inventory of surface materials. Unfortunately, bedrock outcrops are few and far between in our State because so much of the surface is covered by alluvium (stream deposits) or colluvium (slope deposits). Since we are mapping the bedrock geology, we have to find ways to see through this cover and infer what is beneath it. We do map certain types of surficial deposits in some areas, however. Along the valleys of mature streams for instance, alluvium and terrace deposits are mapped. On steep hillsides, various types of debris flows considered to have moved in the recent past are mapped as landslides. Structural features, such as faults or folds, that offset or deform rock units are also described and mapped. In areas where the bedrock is covered, these relationships are inferred from data gathered nearby where outcrops are better.

Landslide in Atoka near Frog BayouParthenon Boulders in Kings River

Recent landslide in the Atoka Formation on the Delaney quad (left) and boulders of Parthenon sandstone in Kings River on the Weathers quad (right)

For this reason, much of our data collection efforts are concentrated on stream beds. There, erosional processes have typically removed soil and loose rock leaving sporadic, well-exposed outcrops of bedrock to study. Also, following a streambed allows us to see strata from bottom to top (or vice versa) which puts each formation in context with others. Locating and describing the physical contacts between formations is one of the most important things we do while mapping. Because formations are laterally extensive, disparate points taken on similar contacts can be connected across the mapping area to delineate each formation. Drawing these contact lines between formations in the correct location is a major focus of the mapping process.

Parthenon/Brentwood at Kings River FallsParthenon/Brentwood in Crosses Creek

Contact between the Parthenon and Brentwood Members of the Bloyd Formation on the Weathers quad at Kings River Falls (left) and on the Delaney quad in Crosses Creek (right)

Currently, the AGS’s STATEMAP projects are focused on the Ozark Plateaus Province, part of the Interior Highlands Physiographic Region located in the northern part of the State. The Ozark Plateaus in Arkansas consist of three broad surfaces that have developed due to differential erosion of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks on the southern flank of the Ozark Dome. Weathers and Delaney lie within the Boston Mountains Plateau, the southernmost and highest of these three surfaces. On these quads, over 1000 feet (305 meters) of Mississippian to Pennsylvanian (Chesterian, Morrowan, and Atokan) carbonate and clastic rocks are exposed. These rocks formed from sediment deposited in distal to near shore marine, tidal, deltaic, and fluvial environments.

Boston Mountains Plateau from Boston, Ark.

On the Boston Mountains Plateau, looking west toward Delaney from Boston.

In this area, the White River is increasingly being utilized as a public water source. Because of its importance in this regard, there is a lot of interest in gathering baseline data in this watershed. Most of the Delaney quad is drained by the White River, the uppermost reaches of the Middle Fork of the White River, and numerous smaller tributaries of the White. Some small drainages along the west side of the quad and Frog Bayou along the southern edge drain to the Arkansas River. Most of Weathers quad is drained by the Kings River and its tributaries as well as upper reaches of War Eagle Creek and the Buffalo River, all of which contribute to the White. Field work this year included hiking, wading, and swimming about 4.5 miles of the White River and 7 miles of the Middle Fork of the White River on the Delaney quad. 11 miles of the Kings River and 10.5 miles of Felkins Creek were traversed on the Weathers, along with numerous other streambeds on both quads.

Fossiliferous Brentwood in White RiverFossiliferous Brentwood in Cowcumber Creek

Close examination of fossiliferous Brentwood Limestone in White River on Delaney quad (left). Crinoid detritus including spines and cup plates in the Brentwood in Cowcumber Creek on Weathers quad (right)

The most significant structural feature on Weathers is the Russell Ridge Monocline, the axis of which is oriented parallel to other northeast-trending faults and lineations in northwest Arkansas. Presumably these align with regional faulting of Precambrian basement rock. The strata are depressed approximately 200 feet (61 meters) from southeast to northwest across this structure. Various normal faults with throws from 60-100 feet (18-20 meters) were also mapped. In the northwest corner of Delaney, the Drakes Creek Fault, a normal fault that also trends northeast, is downthrown to the southeast approximately 200 feet (61 meters).

Normal fault in Whispering Hollow

Yellow line marking the trace of a normal fault in Whispering Hollow on Weathers. Pitkin (Mp) downthrown to Fayetteville (Mf) approximately 60 feet (18 meters)

The Ozark National Forest occupies parts of the southern two thirds of Delaney and the southern third of Weathers. It is managed by the U. S. Forest Service. Along a reach of the Kings River in the southern part of Weathers is the Kings River Falls Natural Area which is maintained by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission.

Kings River Falls

Kings River Falls, the centerpiece of the 1059-acre Kings River Falls Natural Area

Field work commenced on July 16, 2018 and was finished on March 28, 2019 for a total of 75 days. From early April through the end of June, the geologists analyzed field data, classified rock specimens, and wrote descriptions specific to each quadrangle. Contacts and structural features were drawn on a topographic map base both digitally and by hand. Brian Kehner and Kerstein Dunn helped digitize and symbolize the map elements in ArcMap, developed alternative base maps, and integrated field data into our seamless geodatabase. Final layout of the maps was accomplished in Adobe Illustrator by Garry Hatzell, and they were edited by AGS geologic staff.

Prairie Grove in Kings RiverAtoka in Shrader Hollow

Massive calcareous sandstone in the Prairie Grove Member of the Hale Formation in Kings River on Weathers (left). Thin-bedded sandstone in the Atoka Formation in Shrader Branch on Delaney (right)

Special thanks to Ciara Mills for accompanying us in the field several weeks this year. Also to Angela Chandler for writing the proposal and serving as Principal Investigator again this year. Her guidance and support of geologic mapping in the State inspires us all to do great things. Very special thanks to Jerry and Joan Johnson of Madison County whose hospitality and knowledge of the people and places in the mapping area provided invaluable support for our endeavor this year.

Joan, Richard, and JerryAngela

Joan Johnson, Richard Hutto, and Jerry Johnson by Little Mulberry Creek (left) and Angela Chandler on North Sylamore Creek (right)

Next year, STATEMAP is heading farther north to the Salem Plateau where Scott Ausbrooks, Bill Prior, and Garry Hatzell will be mapping the Mammoth Springs quadrangle. So if you see someone up there taking an unusually keen interest in the rocks, be sure to say hello.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the field!

Richard Hutto

 Team Ozark

Garry Hatzell and Richard Hutto—out standing in the field

Cannon Creek Waterfall at Parthenon/Brentwood Contact

Notes from the Field-Durham Quadrangle

 

Geologic Map of the Durham Quadrangle, Madison and Washington Counties, Arkansas

Geologic mapping of the Durham 7.5-minute quadrangle in northwest Arkansas was recently completed by the STATEMAP field team.  STATEMAP in Arkansas is currently focused on detailed 1:24,000-scale mapping in the Ozark Plateaus Region in north Arkansas.  It is accomplished through a cooperative matching-funds grant program administered by the US Geological Survey.   Field work was performed between July and February, and included hiking/wading/swimming the entire 12-mile stretch of the upper White River located on the quad.  Previous mapping delineated five stratigraphic units for the 1:500,000-scale Geologic Map of Arkansas, but at the 1:24,000 scale, we were able to draw ten. Further division is possible, but several units were considered too thin to map on the available 40-foot contour interval.

You can download your own copy of the map at this link:

http://www.geology.arkansas.gov/maps_pdf/geologic/24k_maps/Durham.pdf

 

DurhamStratColumn

Generalized Stratigraphic Column of Durham Quadrangle

The Drakes Creek Fault, which runs diagonally from the southwest corner to the northeast corner, is the most striking feature on the map.  It is part of a major structural feature in northwest Arkansas, forming a lineament that can be traced at the surface for over 45 miles.  The Drakes Creek displays normal movement, is downthrown to the southeast, and offsets strata an average of 230 feet.  Associated with the fault on the northwest side is a large drag fold. There, rocks parallel to the fault are deformed such that units typically present at higher elevations away from the fault bend down to a much lower elevation next to the fault.  Erosion along this side of the fault has exposed the core of the fold along Fritts Creek, Cannon Creek, and other places.

image

Detail of Cross-section of Durham Quadrangle

The Durham quad is far-removed from areas of previous STATEMAP projects in north Arkansas.  We completed work on the Mountain View 1:100,000-scale quad last year, ending on the Brownsville quad near Heber Springs.  Focus has now turned to the Fly Gap Mountain 1:100K quad as the next high-priority area.  When completed, we will have continuous 1:24K coverage for a large portion of the central Ozark Plateaus Region.  The Durham quad was an appropriate choice to begin mapping in this area due to its proximity to designated type sections for many of the formations in north Arkansas.  This facilitated easy comparisons between our field observations on Durham with the classic outcrops where these formations were first described.  Initial field investigations included locating, describing, and sampling these historic outcrops near Fayetteville. We visited many places the names from which the stratigraphic nomenclature we still employ was derived.  These places have such names as: Bloyd Mountain, Kessler Mountain, Lake Wedington, Cane Hill, Prairie Grove, Brentwood, Winslow, and Woolsey.  Having seen the stratigraphy in these areas firsthand better prepares us to track changes in lithology and sedimentation as we continue to map to the east and south of Durham in the coming years.

The following images were taken during this year’s field season and are arranged in stratigraphic order from youngest to oldest:

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Liesegang boxworks–Greenland Sandstone.  Mapped into the Atoka Formation

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Asterosoma trace fossils–Trace Creek Shale of the Atoka Formation

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Kessler Limestone just below the Morrowan/Atokan Boundary–mapped into the Dye Shale of the Bloyd Formation

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Parthenon sandstone resting on the Brentwood Limestone, both of the Bloyd Formation.  The Parthenon was also mapped into the Dye

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Mounded bioherms in the Brentwood Limestone

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Tabulate coral colony in the Brentwood Limestone

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Herringbone cross-bedding in calcareous sandstone–Prairie Grove Member of the Hale Formation

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Goniatitic Ammonoids in calcareous sandstone–Prairie Grove

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South-dipping sandstone in the White River south of the Drakes Creek Fault–Cane Hill Member of the Hale Formation

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Soft-sediment deformation–Cane Hill

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Pitkin Limestone, below the Cane Hill near West Fork—Mississippian/Pennsylvanian Boundary

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A cluster of solitary Rugose corals–Pitkin Limestone

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Wedington Sandstone of the Fayetteville Shale at West Fork

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Base of the Wedington–mapped into the upper Fayetteville Shale

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Large septarian concretion–lower Fayetteville Shale

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Pyritized Holcospermum (seed fern seed-left) and goniatitic ammonoid (right)–lower Fayetteville Shale

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Boone Formation, along the White River in the northwest corner of the Durham quadrangle

This year, we’re moving east to map the Japton and Witter quads. Wish us luck as we begin a new field season.  We’ll try to keep you apprised, so until next time, we’ll see you in the field!

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Richard Hutto and Garry Hatzell

Archimedes in Pitkin Limestone

Notes from the Field: Pitkin Limestone

 

The Pitkin Limestone

One of the most fossiliferous formations in the state is the Pitkin Limestone. It was referred to as the Archimedes Limestone in the late 1890s because it contains an abundance of the screw-shaped bryozoan fossil Archimedes. It was formally named the Pitkin Limestone in 1904 for exposures near Pitkin Post Office in Washington County, Arkansas. If you can’t find the town of Pitkin on a map, don’t worry–it’s now known as Woolsey.

The Pitkin began as carbonate sediments deposited in the Mississippian Period around 320 million years ago.  At that time, northern Arkansas was covered by a shallow sea that was fairly close to the equator.  Warm, shallow seawater is a prime environment for the build-up of carbonates.  Marine organisms extracted calcium carbonate out of the seawater to form shells or other hard parts.  This material accumulated and eventually turned into limestone.  Some of those secreted structures are preserved as fossils in the rock and are clues to the environmental conditions that existed at the time.

The Mississippian in Arkansas

The area of what is now Arkansas during the Mississippian

The Pitkin Limestone is a bluff-former that crops out in the southern portion of the Ozark Plateaus from just south of Fayetteville eastward to Batesville, typically along the Boston Mountains Plateau Escarpment.  It is mostly limestone, however, there is some nodular black chert present locally.  Black shale intervals are common in the eastern portion.  Because limestone is a soluble rock, karst features such as caves, sinkholes, springs, and disappearing streams are common in this Formation.  About 9% of the known caves in Arkansas are in the Pitkin.  Its thickness varies from an average of about 50 feet on the west side of the state to about 200 feet in the eastern part with a maximum of about 400 feet in the central portion.  It typically rests on the Fayetteville Shale and is overlain by the Cane Hill Member of the Hale Formation in western Arkansas and by the Imo interval from the area of western Searcy County eastward.

Geologic Map of Arkansas-detail

The Pitkin outcrop belt is within the light-brown area in this Ozark Plateaus detail of the Geologic Map of Arkansas

To download the entire Geologic Map of Arkansas, click here: http://www.geology.ar.gov/ark_state_maps/geologic.htm

Cane Hill/Pitkin Contact near West Fork

The Cane Hill overlying the Pitkin near West Fork, Washington County

Pitkin/Fayetteville Contact at Hwy 65 Roadcut

The Fayetteville underlying the Pitkin near Marshall, Searcy County

Pitkin top in Little Red Creek

Top of Pitkin in Little Red Creek near Canaan, Searcy County

Now, let’s look at fossils commonly found in the Pitkin.

Archimedes in Pitkin-Batesville Archimedes in Pitkin-Fayetteville

The photos above contain fossils of Archimedes.  The fossil is named for the ancient Greek engineer who invented a device that incorporated a large screw to lift water for irrigation.  The left photo was taken south of Batesville and the right photo was taken south of Fayetteville.  It’s remarkable that these fossils are so persistent along this great extent.  Although this fossil is characteristic of the Pitkin, it can also be present in adjacent formations.  The illustration below is a sketch of a fenestrate Bryzoan of which Archimedes is a type.

Fenestrate Bryzoan

Archimedes as it may have appeared in life

Crinoid stems and Columnals-Batesville Crinoid Stems-Batesville

Pieces of fossilized Crinoids are also abundant in the Pitkin.  Most commonly, small button-shaped pieces of the stem and arms, known as columnals, are preserved in the limestone.  That is a columnal in the center of the left photo.  The larger crinoid fossils above were preserved in shale and were most probably washed onto a mud flat during a storm event.  These photos were taken south of Batesville, but crinoid detritus is abundant throughout the Pitkin and most other limestone in Arkansas.

Crinoid

Crinoid as it may have appeared in life

A great location to see the Pitkin is along Richland Creek at its confluence with Falling Water Creek.  When the creek level is low, you can hike upstream from the campground and see many fine exposures of Pitkin Limestone in the creekbed.  Locally, colonies of tabulate and rugose coral were preserved in the Pitkin and can be discovered upon close inspection of the outcrop.

Moore Quadrangle-detail

Detail of Geologic Map of the Moore Quadrangle showing Pitkin along Richland Creek (Mp=Pitkin)

To download the entire Geologic Map of the Moore Quadrangle, click here: https://ngmdb.usgs.gov/Prodesc/proddesc_76560.htm

Tabulate Coral in Pitkin Limestone

Tabulate or colonial coral in the Pitkin Limestone along Richland Creek.

Rugose Coral Colony in Pitkin Limestone

Rugose coral in Pitkin

Locally, the Pitkin consists of oolite, a type of sedimentary rock composed of ooliths.  Ooliths are small, spherical structures (<2 mm) that form by accretion of numerous concentric layers of calcite on a central nucleus such as a shell fragment or sand grain.  The environment of deposition would have been areas where strong bottom currents or wave action rolled the fragment around in carbonate-rich sea water.  This would include environments like beaches and tidal flats.

Oncolites and stromatolites are also preserved in the Pitkin.  They have a similar structure to ooliths, but are much larger (up to 10 cm), can be round or irregular-shaped, and are formed by a different mechanism.  Like ooliths, they nucleate on a shell or other fragment, but are built up by encrusting layers of blue-green algae or cyanobacteria.  Stromatolites form in much the same way,  but create columns, mats, or large heads.  Stromatolites and oncolites typically indicate a paleoenvironment of warm, shallow water in a calm sea, lagoon, or bay.

Oolitic Pitkin

Oolitic Pitkin

Oncolitic Pitkin

Oncolitic Pitkin

Stromatolitic Pitkin

Stromatolitic Pitkin

During fieldwork for our geologic mapping, finding Pitkin Limestone is always exciting because there is something new and interesting to discover every time.  We hope this brief introduction to one of Arkansas’ most intriguing formations has convinced you to seek out the Pitkin and have a closer look.

Until next time, we’ll see you on the outcrop!

Richard Hutto, Angela Chandler

GeoPic of the Week: Honeycomb Weathering In Sandstone

Honeycomb weathering in sandstone

Honeycomb weathering in sandstone

This type of weathering produces pits of varying size on a rock surface.  The pits in the picture above are small approximately less than 1 inch up to 2 inches in diameter.  This type of weathering is also known as tafoni, a Sicilian word for window.  The dominant process that forms these features is probably chemical weathering.    Sandstones are made up of sand size grains of quartz and other minerals.  The grains are held together with a cement or glue such as quartz, calcite, or iron.  In most instances, there are patches where the cement is no longer present allowing the grains to fall apart.  Honeycomb weathering is abundant in the sandstones in the northern part of the state.  This picture was taken of the Wedington Sandstone Member of the Fayetteville Shale in northwestern Arkansas.