Tag Archives: Greers Ferry Lake

Statemap 2015-16 Update

 

Hello all!

Well, another year, another map!  The Brownsville quad is now published (see map below), and a link to it will be posted on our website soon.  This year marks the 22nd anniversary of Statemap, aka the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, in Arkansas.  Statemap is partially funded by a USGS grant, and was established to encourage the states to map their surface geology at the 1:24,000 scale.  To date, our mapping teams have completed thirty-three quadrangles in the West Gulf Coastal Plain and, with the recent publication of the Brownsville quad, forty quads in the Ozark Plateaus.

Geologic map Brownsville, AR

The geology of the area around Greers Ferry Lake has never been mapped in great detail until now.  Previous work had been to produce the 1:500,000-scale Geologic Map of Arkansas.  Because we mapped the Brownsville quad at the 1:24,000 scale, we were able to make some observations new to science.  A fault was discovered that had never been mapped previously.  We named it the Shiloh Fault for the old town, now inundated by the lake, that lies along its trace.  Meanders of the Little Red River channel approached this fault but didn’t cross it, probably due to encountering more resistant rock on the north side of the fault.  The Witts Springs Formation had not been mapped south of the Choctaw Creek Fault before, but we were able to draw in its upper contact with the Bloyd Formation along the Devil’s Fork and several other drainages.

Overturned cross beds in massive sandstone of the undifferentiated Bloyd Formation

As on other quads around Greers Ferry Lake, we continued to find terrace deposits left behind as the Little Red River carved the valley down to its present elevation.  Some of these are stranded as much as 260 feet above the current channel bottom (now located on the bottom of the lake).

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For many years now, our mapping program has focused on completing the Mountain View 1:100,000-scale quad.  This area encompasses thirty-two 1:24,000-scale quads and stretches from Richland Creek to Sylamore Creek on the north side and from the Illinois Bayou to Greers Ferry Lake on the south side.  Now that this area is finished, our Statemap Advisory Committee has decided we should jump over to northwest Arkansas to complete work on the Fly Gap Mountain quad, just west of the Mountain View quad (see map below).

STATEMAP index for blog

So for next year, the Statemap team is going to start work on the Durham quad in the northwest corner of the Fly Gap Mountain quad near Fayetteville.  We’ll have to spend a few weeks getting our feet on the ground, so to speak, because we won’t have the benefit of already mapped quads adjacent.  Fortunately, we will be very close to the type-sections for most of the formations we’ll be mapping, so hopefully, we can study the classic outcrops and trace them into our new field area without too much difficulty.

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A type-section is an area, or even just an outcrop, where a particular formation was first described.  They are named after a local geographic feature.  Formations first described in northwest Arkansas include: the Fayetteville Shale, the Pitkin Limestone, and the Hale Formation which has the Cane Hill and Prairie Grove as members.  Members are smaller, discernable units within a formation.  The type-section for the Bloyd Formation, including the Brentwood, Woolsey, Dye, and Kessler Members, and the Trace Creek, which is the basal member of the Atoka Formation (named for its type locality in Oklahoma), is on Bloyd Mountain near West Fork.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my field partners that accompanied me this past year.

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I started the year with Ty Johnson, who has since moved into a permanent staff position at the Survey, so congratulations to him!  He was with me for just a year, but we covered a lot of ground together.  He’s now mapping the geology of the Lake Ft. Smith area with an emphasis on landslide mitigation.

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The writer and also principle investigator of the Statemap grant, Angela Chandler, went out a few weeks in the late fall before we could fill the vacancy Ty left behind.  No matter how much I learn, she always manages to teach me something new.

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We hired Garry Hatzell, a recent U of A grad, who started fieldwork in January.  He brings an enthusiastic knowledge of paleontology to the mix, and I look forward to his continued insight into the biostratigraphy of our field areas.

Without the help of these fine folks, we couldn’t have gathered the data or produced the map.  Also, I would have been stuck in the office—a torture for the unrepentant field geologist.

Wish us luck on the Durham quad!  And if you’re in northwest Arkansas during the next twelve months and happen to drive by a Jeep Cherokee with the AGS seal on it, be sure to stop and introduce yourself.

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Until then, I’ll see you on the outcrop!

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Richard Hutto

Geopic of the week: Landslides

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Here’s a picture of a recent landslide that took out a gravel road south of Greers Ferry Lake in north central Arkansas.  Landslides are one of the natural phenomenon that earth scientists refer to as geohazards.  It’s impossible to predict where and when a landslide will occur, but there are known conditions that make certain landscapes more prone to sliding.

In Arkansas, conditions that can lead to landslides include steep slopes, and poorly cohesive soil or bedrock – such as shale or alluvium.  Land where vegetation has been cleared is also more likely to fail.  Many landslides occur after periods of prolonged heavy rainfall, though that’s a factor that can’t be avoided.  One of the best ways to determine if an area is prone to landslides is to look for evidence of past slides;  If slopes have failed in the past, it’s likely they will fail again.

If you are developing property or are looking at property to purchase, you should consider whether it is in a landslide prone area.   You can always contact a friendly geologist at the Arkansas Geological Survey and ask them their opinion.

Statemap 2014-15 Update

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Hello all,

Just wanted to let you know that the Statemap 2014-15 field mapping project has resulted in the publication of three new geologic maps.  These are the Parma, Prim, and Greers Ferry quadrangles.  Reduced images are posted below.  These should be available as .pdfs on our website in the near future.  I’ll keep you posted!Parma

Parma Quadrangle

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Prim Quadrangle

Prim boulder (cannonball concretion) in Sugar Camp Creek

Greers Ferry Layout

Greers Ferry Quadrangle

Old Terrace deposit underlying Greers Ferry, AR

Also, I would like to thank the many people who helped with data collection in the field this year, without whom this project would have been impossible.

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Andy Haner                                                        Danny Rains

 

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Angela Chandler                                                                     Stefanie Domrois

 

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Doug Hanson                                  Ty Johnson

Thanks, everyone!

 

Now it’s off to the Brownsville quad for next year!

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Richard Hutto

Geopic of the week: well exposed fault

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The picture above shows a normal fault exposed in an old railroad grade just north of Greers Ferry lake in the Ozark Mountains of central Arkansas.  Two different lithologies are juxtaposed against one another: siltstone on the left and sandstone on the right.   Exposures such as this one are relatively rare in the Ozarks where most of the bedrock is covered by loose sediment and vegetation.

This fault is extensive and roughly parallels the northern portion of Greers Ferry lake.  The fault gives the northern portion of the lake its linear shape (see below).

Greers Ferry lake

Statemap Field Blog, March 31-April 2, 2014

 

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Hello all!

Another great week in the field.  Signs of spring are everywhere, and unfortunately the field season is drawing to a close.  We skipped around all over the Fairfield Bay quad this week, still trying to trace the very thick-, massive-bedded sandstone that we’re calling the base of the Bloyd for now.  Just off the eastern edge of the Fairfield Bay quad is a locally famous outcrop of that sandstone that was supposedly visited by Hernando Desoto himself in 1542.  Whether or not that’s true, it is a very impressive bluff shelter known as the Indian Rock House.  A lot of eroded material was removed from the floor of the shelter when the adjacent Indian Hills Golf Club was built, leaving behind the fine sandstone amphitheater we see today.   One could see how this formation could later become a natural bridge if erosion continues along the joint set parallel to the bluff face.  If that interior arch were to fall out, then the remaining one would form a bridge.  This is how most of the sandstone natural bridges in Arkansas are formed.  Lots of graffiti has been scratched into the friable rock over the years, including some that may have been carved by native people.

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On Tuesday, we finished up our field work on the lake.  We still had a couple islands we needed to visit, and the entire south side of the lake is so steep that access by land would be difficult.  We were excited to find more old river terraces on the islands, including one that would have been deposited on a cut-off meander in the area of Harpers Cove.  The deposit is about 80 feet above and over a half mile north of the current river channel (before the lake was there, that is).  The high end of the range for the downcutting rate for the Colorado River in the western Grand Canyon is 16 centimeters/1000 years, and I think we can all agree that downcutting there probably exceeds that in Arkansas.  Using that rate, an estimated 152,000 years would have passed since that terrace was deposited.  That gravel has been there a long time!  Of course, cutting off the meander would have stranded that deposit at that time, but don’t forget that this stream is developed in bedrock, so meander cut-off would be a fairly infrequent event.  To get a better estimate of these events, methods such as luminescence dating are being developed to age date the sand in these stranded river terraces.  With this new technology, perhaps someday we will know when these terraces were deposited.

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On the south side of lake below Stevens Point is a good example of a modern landslide, and a bit of a cautionary tale.  Sometimes clearing trees for roads and houses can have catastrophic results.  The photo tells the story.  The major part of this landslide occurred March 28, 2005 just after a road was cleared from the house down to the lake.  Most of the material at the edge of the lake on the north side of Hunter Mountain is there as a result of old landslides, therefore any development in this area can cause it to become unstable, as evidenced here.  That’s why part of our project includes mapping areas where landslides have occurred.

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Speaking of Hunter Mountain, we ran across one of the now ubiquitous gas well pads up there, and I thought you might be interested to know the function of each piece of typical well head production equipment.  At each wellhead is a set of valves that regulate the flow of gas.  These are often controlled remotely, thus the solar panels which power the system.  The big tanks near them contain hydrogen sulfide which is introduced into the gas right away to give it a strong odor.  This odor is, of course, quite useful to determine if there are any gas leaks since natural gas is odorless.  From the wellhead, the gas flows to the separators which remove any fluids contained in the gas.  This fluid could include heavy hydrocarbons, but is mostly produced water.  These fluids are stored in large tanks which are built inside a berm.  The berm is designed to hold 1 1/2 times the capacity of one of the storage tanks in case of a spill.  The level in the tanks is also monitored remotely and emptied on a regular basis.  From here, the gas is piped to a compression station where it undergoes further treatment.   Then it is sent through a transmission line and on to your house.  It’s not pretty, but for now, we have to have it.

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Well, next week will be the last of our field season.

Until then, see you on the outcrop!

 

Geopic of the Week

 

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Pedestals are a fairly common erosional feature in Arkansas in places where conditions are favorable.  They typically form in massive sandstone units due to an increased rate of erosion along the joint set near a bluff line.  Joints are vertical fractures within almost all rocks that formed in response to the tectonic stresses they have undergone in the distant past.  Joints are most often expressed as sets oriented in rhombohedral patterns.  Water can more easily penetrate the rocks along these joints, eventually opening a gap.  When this happens along joints parallel to a bluff face, the gap essentially cuts off the incipient pedestal from the influence of groundwater, isolating it from most of the processes of chemical weathering.  Once that happens the majority of weathering of the newly formed block of sandstone is done by wind and rain.  Because the corners and edges of a rhombohedron have more surface area, weathering is concentrated there, eventually rounding it off to form the typical pedestal shape.  In many places, a capstone of more resistant sandstone is present which contributes to the top-heavy pedestal or mushroom shape.  Also, the pedestal-forming unit is commonly underlain by shale or silty-shale on which the fully intact pedestal can slowly creep downslope.  Some of them end up quite a distance from the bluff where they started.  If you would like to view several fine examples of this erosional phenomenon, consider a visit to Pedestal Rocks Natural Area in the Ozark National Forest.       

Statemap Field Blog March 24-26, 2014

Taphoni (honeycomb weathering) in massive sandstone.

Taphoni (honeycomb weathering) in massive sandstone.

Hello all!

Sorry about that long hiatus, but I had a couple of extra projects the last couple months that took a lot of extra time.  We’ve been in the field almost every week except for March 3-5 during the 3 inch snow in Van Buren County.  We’ve mostly worked on the Fairfield Bay quad during the last few weeks.  This week was spent tracing a very thick-bedded, massive sandstone unit through the town of Fairfield Bay itself.  It is quite an impressive bluff-former and actually underlies almost the entire Mountain Ranch golf course.

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Danny descending treacherous massive sandstone outcrop

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Danny contemplating how this massive sandstone can all but disappear a few hundred yards north of here

 

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Grotto in massive sandstone

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Most hillsides are composed of a thick sequence of very thin sandstone/siltstone and shale–easily erodible

 

Apparently some structure or perhaps a change in depositional environment made this sandstone climb up 200 feet to the east.  There it forms the cap of the ridge on which the small town of Fairfield Bay sits.  Moving east again, It underlies the Indian Hills Country Club where weathering (and earth-moving equipment) has produced the famous Indian Rock House on the golf course there.  Underlying that massive across the entire area is a very thick sequence of very thin-bedded sandstone/siltstone/shale.  A lot of the roads built in this unit have formed deep gullies making some of them impassable.  Still, there is better access in this area than most that we map, so we’re thankful for that.  Only about two weeks left of the field season.  We’ll probably be jumping around a lot to work out problem areas on both quads during that time.

See you on the outcrop!

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Danny actually seeing through the groundcover to the rock beneath the Mountain Ranch golf course