Tag Archives: Imo

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

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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!

DSCN0255

Richard Hutto

Statemap Field Blog, April 7-9, 2014

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Hello all,

Well, this is the last week of field work for the 2013-14 season.  Of course, there’s always more one would like to have a look at, but we have to stop sometime.  On Monday, we started down by the M&NA railroad bridge at Shirley.  The big fault that makes the SW/NE lineation goes through here somewhere, but it’s difficult to say where exactly.  There are lots of non-vertical joints and deformation bands in the area, which are all good fault signs, but nothing very definitive.  The area north of the bridge is about as thick as it could possibly be with greenbriers –only passable with much effort and many scratches.  We saw very thick-bedded sandstone there which we took for Witts Springs that day, but when we came back on Wednesday, we decided it may be north of the fault, and therefore would be Imo.  We have Imo across the valley, so it’s not out of the question to have it here, but it may be just a relatively thin slice.  There are many cut and fill channel beds there, some of them with very nice soft-sediment deformation at the margins.

On Tuesday we finished up some loose ends in the northwest corner of the Shirley quad.  After we climbed way down in a hollow that had an old tornado track going through it, Danny realized he had lost his camera somewhere.  We hiked back up to the Jeep to see if it was there (it wasn’t), then retraced our steps from earlier that morning.  Still nothing.  He remembered the last time he had used it was in that horrible briar patch the day before, so after we climbed out again, we headed back there.  Sure enough, in the thickest part of the patch, where he had been practically crawling to get through, a briar had reached in his carrying case and pulled it out.  It was still dangling there about a foot off the ground right on the river bank.  At least we got it back!

Deformation bands in massive sandstone near Middle Fork north of Shirley2014-04-07 017

2014-04-09 026 2014-04-09 011On Tuesday afternoon, we went down a drainage on the west side of Middle Fork looking for more signs of a fault we have traced from the Old Lexington quad.  We definitely found a lot of deformation bands in the Witts Springs massives down there and figure there might be as much as 80 feet of throw on the fault.

2014-04-08 0192014-04-08 027Wednesday was our last day in the field this year, and we spent most of our time on the Middle Fork just north of Shirley where we had left off on Monday.  Did look like the fault goes through there because we found very-thick bedded massives on the north side (Imo) and shale interbedded with very thin-bedded sandstone on the south side (Cane Hill).  Our last couple of hours we spent getting points in several road cuts in and around Shirley.  We took a final photo in front of the town sign.

2014-04-08 048 (2)2014-04-09 047This will be Danny’s last year out in the field with me, so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank him for putting up with me and the sometimes horrendous field conditions we’ve faced together the last five years.   Looks like I’ll have to break in a new field partner next year, so should be interesting.  Now comes the time of year when we have to sit in the office and draw the maps, create the layouts, and finish the database, all to be turned in to the USGS by June 30.  It seems like a long time, but we’re always editing down to the last minute.  By the time we make it back out in the field, it will be mid-July, so the ticks and snakes will be out in full force, it will be nice and hot, and all the vegetation will be full grown.  At least that gives us something to look forward to.  Until then, I’ll see you in the office.  After that, I’ll see you on the outcrop!

 

 

 

Statemap Field Blog, Sept. 16-18, 2013

Hello all!

Another great week in the field!  Temperatures are coming down some which makes things much more bearable.  Monday we came down from Fox and crossed the Middle Fork at Lydalisk.  Went as far south on the old railroad grade as we could then worked our way back, getting points along the way.  Still finding the Imo near the bottom of the valley.   The river was so low that we could actually cross it on foot to get a drainage on the east side.  The first good outcrops we found there were the lower Cane Hill.   There were good examples of taphoni in the rocks there.  Commonly known as “honeycomb weathering”, taphoni is caused by weathering processes in many rock types and under many conditions.  In the Cane Hill it typically affects the thin-bedded sandstones in dry areas beneath overhangs and is probably due to differential dissolutioning of the cement by groundwater.  This process also causes the concave structures as noted in previous blogs.

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The next two days we started at the upper end of Indian Creek and worked our way down.  Lots 2013-09-17-019_thumb.jpgof Fayetteville shale production going on in this area, which means good roads for us!  Seemed to be in Witts Springs sandstone the entire stretch, so not a lot of contacts.  Definitely had a lot of dipping rock and signs of  a large fault further south including deformation bands and non-vertical joints.  Located a couple small faults with what we think is minimal offset along the creek and adjacent hollows.

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Cottonmouth in dry creek bed.

Did have a few encounters with our reptile friends.  We always leave them be so maybe word will spread among their kind that we mean no harm.  It’s worked so far!

See you on the outcrop!

Snake count: 2

Tick attacks: severe

Statemap Field Blog, Sept. 8-13, 2013

Hello all!

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Silence of the cicadas

Signs that summer is almost over despite the continued warm temperatures include the silencing of cicada calls one at a time.  A welcome turn of events!

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More “crazy-bedding” in the upper Imo

This week was a long one because we worked in two different field areas.  On Monday and Tuesday we were back on Tick Creek looking at the last two major eastern drainages.  Found good Cane Hill/Imo contacts in each and a fairly consistent
irregular-, channel-bedded sandstone unit with abundant soft-sediment deformation near the top of the Imo.  It’s so irregular that I was calling it “crazy-bedded” before long. 

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“Crazy-bedding” in the upper Imo

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Yet more “crazy-bedding” in the upper Imo

There was also a section in the middle of the Cane Hill that was so perfectly cut by its east/west joint that it formed a smooth wall on the north side of the creek.  There was a parallel joint face on the south side, but it was not nearly as well exposed.

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Danny views joint face “wall” in Cane Hill

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Buttresses on Bear Creek

On Tuesday evening we joined Angela Chandler and Lea Nondorf, also of the Survey, on Bear Creek in Marshall to work on several other projects the rest of the week.  One ongoing project is to try to resolve edge-matching issues whenever we get a chance.  This involves gathering new data in boundary areas between quads that were mapped by different people or who used a different stratigraphy.  This week we were also looking for localities in the Imo interval for an upcoming field trip that Angela, Erin Smart and I are leading this spring for the GSA (Geological Society of America) conference in Fayetteville.  While looking at various road cuts, we also took new points on an area in the corner of four quads.  

Angela in front of lower Imo sandstone at the type section

Angela and Danny at the foot of the basal Witts Springs sandstone near Bryan Mountain

Wednesday and part of Thursday we looked at several possible field trip stops in the Imo, none of which seemed particularly suitable for one reason or another.  Mostly this is because the Imo doesn’t tend display good outcrops in this area due to its shaley composition and its typically being covered by the flaggy sandstone of the Cane Hill above.  We did visit the type section which is in Sulphur Springs Hollow to see if that could be used as a stop, but deemed the area too rugged unless a very small, sturdy group of geologists sign up.   A type section is an area where a formation or rock unit is first described and studied in detail.  In this case the type section was proposed then summarily  abandoned, but there are those working hard to see it reinstated eventually.

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Coalified wood prints in Imo sandstone at the type section

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Crinoids in red, fossiliferous Imo limestone at the type section

Another project that we are working on for the National Park Service is a compilation of all the quad maps along the Buffalo National River. Our agency and the US Geological Survey have each done about half of the quads in that area.  Most of the quads mapped by our agency did not include the higher terrace levels above the river–some as high as 200 feet!  This week we were able to get points on a few more of these terraces on the Snowball quad. 

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Smart Bluff above Arnold Bend on the Buffalo River

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Calcite fracture-fillings used as building stones in St. Joe

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Quartz crystal encrusted Boone chert used as building stones in St. Joe

We looked in Arnold Bend Thursday afternoon, and differentiated several terrace levels there, then on the way back to town, we stopped at a roadcut on Hwy. 65 that Angela knew about where there are quartz crystals growing in fractured Boone limestone and chert.  Danny had stopped at St. Joe on a previous field trip and so directed us there to see the quartz and calcite crystals encrusted on some of the old building stones in town.  These stones were no doubt found nearby along the several mineralized fault zones in the area.

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Early morning fog on Bear Creek

The next morning there was fog on Bear Creek and we headed up to Jamison Bluff to look for Plattin in the riverbed where it had been mapped previously.  This is part of the 6 mile section of the Buffalo between Woolum and Margaret White Bluff that dries up during the summer.  All we could find was St. Joe, so that part of the map remains as is. 

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Jamison Bluff along the Buffalo River

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River crossing at Woolum on the Buffalo River

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Looking down on Skull Bluff on the Buffalo River

 We crossed the Buffalo at Woolum and walked along the top of Skull Bluff to the Nars Cemetery most of which was covered with a terrace deposit (along with almost impenetrable black locust, cedar and briars).  

And of course, we couldn’t leave the area without a quick trip to “the Nars” itself for Danny and Lea to see for the first time.

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“The Nars”. Buffalo River left, Richland valley right.

“The Nars” is an almost sheer rock wall in the Boone formed as an erosional remnant between the valleys of the Buffalo River and Richland Creek.  Quite impressive as usual.  After that we had to get back to Little Rock and “the real world”.  See you next week.     

Tick attacks: severe

Statemap Field Blog, Sept. 3-5, 2013

Hello all!

Well, it warmed up again this week, but at least the humidity stayed lower.  Definitely getting a more golden quality to the sunlight in the evenings now, and the mornings are almost pleasant—maybe fall is just around the corner! 

Kinder Slough on Middle ForkSpent this week exploring lower Tick Creek which is one of the larger tributaries on the north side of the Middle Fork north of Shirley.  I can attest that this creek is aptly named.  It seemed that every plant above ankle high must be covered in them.  Danny and I mapped the upper end of this creek in the 2011-12 field season on the Fox quad.  It was all Cane Hill there with a cap of Witts Springs near the top.  This week we found Imo in the main channel a couple miles from its confluence with the Middle Fork, but haven’t found the contact with the Cane Hill yet.  Will look closer to the north edge of the map next week. 

Flood debris in lower Tick CreekAccording to local landowners, there was a 6-inch deluge at the end of May that washed out many of the access roads.  We could corroborate this after seeing all the large trees and other debris that had been piled up in the creek bed by the flood.  It looks like the entire valley may have been filled with water during that event.  Another good reason not to build anything in the floodplain of these steep-sided, narrow hollows in the Ozark uplands.  Where Still Hollow empties into Tick Creek, a small delta had developed during the flood event.Alluvial fan in Tick Creek 

There was also fresh cutting of the alluvial deposits along the stream bank which plainly showed a typical fining upward sequence.

 

Typical Cane Hill in small drainage to Middle ForkWe walked up quite a few side drainages along Middle Fork and Tick Creek to see if we could catch a glimpse of the Imo as it reaches the bottom of the Middle Fork valley, but the breakdown of the Cane Hill and Witts Springs above has covered it almost entirely.  That left us with thin-bedded Cane Hill sandstone as the lowest unit that produced a decent outcrop in these smaller branches. 

Slide block in creek bedMaybe we’ll get lucky when we hike up the sides of the Middle Fork north of this area.  We did see a large slide block that had fallen into the creek bed and was weathering away virtually intact.  If we had encountered that rock in isolation without the adjacent outcrop, we may have thought there was a fault close by due to the extreme inclination.  As it was, it’s just an interesting footnote to be filed away then used to cast aspersions on future structural theories based on similarly dipping rocks. 

 

What we did see of the Imo upstream in Tick Creek has a lot of interesting lithology (rounded siltstone concretions and coalified wood prints in shale) and bedding structures (soft sediment deformation).  Can’t wait to see what we’ll find upstream!

Snake count: 1

Tick attacks: severe

STATEMAP Field Blog August 26-28, 2013

Hello all!

This week was a hot one, so we did some creek work, but also did some road work.  Went up a section of lower Lost Creek on Monday.  Narrowed down the Cane Hill/Imo to a fairly small area.Danny on Cane Hill in Lost CreekSand on shale in the Imo on Lost Creek

Saw more nice trace fossils in the Imo.

Trace fossils in ImoTrace fossils in the Imo

Got a few points on the Middle Fork where it leaves the Shirley quad and enters Greers Ferry Lake.

Thin-bedded sandstone in Middle Fork Little Red RiverThin-bedded sandstone in Middle Fork Little Red River

Quarry near Fairfield BayAlso, took points on a 4 different shale pits or quarries.

Green persimmons
The persimmons aren’t quite ripe yet!

Deformation bands in massive sandstoneFound these deformation bands right by Highway 16 near Fairfield Bay.  These bands are associated with structural features like faults and folds.  They form in more coarsely grained sandstone when the stress crushes the individual sand grains along a plane, then recrystallizes to form a slightly more resistant lithology, that when weatherd, stand in slight relief.   We will keep looking in this area for more clues and hopefully figure out what the rocks are trying to tell us!

Snake count: 2

Tick attacks: severe