Tag Archives: landslide

Notes from the Field: Japton and Witter Quadrangles

 

Geologic mapping of the Japton and Witter 7.5-minute quadrangles was recently completed by the Arkansas Geological Survey’s STATEMAP field team. In Arkansas, the STATEMAP Program is currently focused on detailed 1:24,000-scale mapping in the Ozark Plateaus Region, located in the northern part of the state.

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Figure 1. Japton and Witter Quadrangles on the 1:500,000-scale Geologic Map of Arkansas (Haley et al., 1993)

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Geologic Map of the Japton Quadrangle, Madison County, Arkansas. Download a digital copy at:

http://www.geology.ar.gov/maps_pdf/geologic/24k_maps/Japton_24k_geologic.pdf

Geological Map of the Witter Quadrangle

Geologic Map of the Witter Quadrangle, Madison County, Arkansas.  Download a digital copy at:

http://www.geology.ar.gov/maps_pdf/geologic/24k_maps/Witter_24k_geologic.pdf

STATEMAP is a cooperative, matching-funds grant program administered by the U. S. Geological Survey. The goal of the program is to classify surface rocks into recognizable units based on a common lithology–basically, an inventory of surface materials. Also, we strive to locate and depict any structural elements that may have deformed the rocks. The rock units are classified into formations and members, and structures are described as synclines, anticlines, monoclines, and faults. During the project, a rich dataset was recorded in the field using a portable data collector/global positioning satellite receiver as well as by traditional methods. This made possible a more detailed depiction of geological and structural features and a more comprehensive description of lithology than previous studies had done. Data collection included:

  • 629 field locations recorded and described in detail
  • 3,385 photographs taken at recorded field locations
  • 72 strike and dip measurements, most depicted on the maps
  • 950 joint orientations, depicted in a rose diagram of strike frequency
  • 1 shale pit
  • 8 springs, previously undocumented
  • 108 rock samples collected and described

The new map is useful to landowners interested in developing their land for personal or commercial purposes, to scientists seeking a better understanding of landscape evolution and geologic history, and to planners responsible for resource development and mitigating environmental impacts.

Angela Chandler, Principal Investigator for the project, wrote the grant for fiscal year 2018 and we received funding adequate to produce two maps.  Two geologists, Richard Hutto and Garrett Hatzell, began their field season last July and after putting in 76 days in the field, concluded that portion of their work in February of this year. The area of investigation lies within the Interior Highlands Physiographic Region in north Arkansas, specifically the Boston Mountains Plateau portion of the Ozark Plateaus Province. Previous work by the AGS in this area had been done in preparation for the 1:500,000-scale Geologic Map of Arkansas by Haley et al. circa 1976 (see Fig. 1). That mapping project delineated five stratigraphic units in this area, but through extensive field reconnaissance, we were able to define ten units on these maps at the 1:24,000 scale. Further division is possible, but several units were considered too thin to depict on the 40-foot contours of the topographic map currently available, or too difficult to delineate by lithology alone.

Several tributaries of the White River are located on these quadrangles including Lollars Creek, Drakes Creek, and War Eagle Creek. The White River is a major water resource in Arkansas and southern Missouri, and as such we need to learn as much as we can about this important watershed. Included in the field work was hiking, wading, or swimming the entire 13-mile stretch of War Eagle Creek located within the Witter quadrangle, the 10 miles of Lollars Creek within the Japton, and many smaller drainages. The reason we concentrate our efforts on stream beds is that there, erosion has typically removed soil and loose rock leaving well-exposed outcrops of bedrock for us to study. Also, being able to see the entire stack of the rock sequence as we move up or downstream helps put each formation in context with the others. Discovering where one formation contacts another is one of the most important things we do while mapping. Because formations are laterally extensive, similar contacts can be connected into a contact line separating one formation from another. Figuring out where to draw these lines on the map is a major goal of the project.

From mid-February through the end of June, we analyzed field data, classified rock specimens, drew formation contacts and structures on the map, then handed it off to our cartography staff to digitize. Final layout and production of the maps was accomplished by the geologists, after which they were subjected to an extensive review and editing process by fellow staff.

The following images were taken during this year’s field season. Hopefully, they will provide a small glimpse into some of what we were privileged to experience in the field this year.  They are arranged in stratigraphic order from youngest to oldest:

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Alluvium in War Eagle Creek (left). Landslide on Highway 23 above Dry Fork (right).

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Ball and pillow structures in the Atoka Formation in Drakes Creek.

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Sequence of photos zooming into herringbone cross-beds in the Greenland Member of the Atoka Formation.

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Large blocks of Kessler Limestone sliding into Lollar’s Creek.

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Sequence of photos zooming into oncolitic limestone of the Kessler Member of the Bloyd Formation. The oncolite pictured far right is nucleated on a tabulate coral.

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Lycopod (tree-like plant) fossil weathering out of the Dye Shale.

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Top of the Parthenon sandstone (Bloyd Formation) in Lollar’s Creek (left). Parthenon resting on the Brentwood Limestone (Bloyd Formation) with travertine precipitating at the drip line (right).

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Siltstone unit in the upper Brentwood Limestone. Cross-bedded (left) and bioturbated (right). 

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Biohermal mounds in the Brentwood Limestone in Jackson Creek.

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Massive bluff of limey sandstone in the Prairie Grove Member of the Hale Formation.

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Sandy limestone in the Prairie Grove. Stream abrasion has revealed cross-bedding (left) and an ammonoid (right).

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Typical thin-, ripple-bedded sandstone of the Cane Hill Member of the Hale Formation (left). A basal conglomerate in the Cane Hill contains fossiliferous and oolitic limestone pebbles and fossil fragments (right).  This unit probably rests on the Mississippian-Pennsylvanian unconformity.

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The Pitkin Limestone in War Eagle Creek.

This year we will be mapping the Weathers quadrangle which is just east of the Witter, and the Delaney quadrangle which is just south of the Durham (which we mapped two years ago). The Kings River flows through Weathers, so this should be a good place to start while river levels are low (and it’s so hot!). I will update you as I can, but until then, I’ll see you in the field!

Richard Hutto

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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.

Geopic of the week: The Maumelle Chaotic Zone

Chaotic zone

This is a picture of sandstone and shale of the Maumelle chaotic zone that outcrops along highway 10 west of North Little Rock, Arkansas.  The Maumelle chaotic zone is part of the Jackfork Formation which forms the bedrock around much of the Little Rock area.  The chaotic zone is called that because of the disarray the rock is in there.  In the example above, broken blocks of sandstone are interspersed with disorganized shale beds that have been rolled, squashed and otherwise deformed (rock hammer at center is for scale).  The rocks weren’t deposited this way but were originally organized into horizontal beds on a deep-water ocean slope.  Before they could be hardened into solid rock, the slope failed and the beds were transported down hill in a massive submarine landslide. 

 

Note:  Other interpretations for this zone have been proffered.  The author of this blog prefers the above interpretation.

 

For more views of the Maumelle chaotic zone click here

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!

 

Statemap Field Blog—Dec. 2-4, 2013

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Hello all!

This week we finished up a few odds and ends on the Shirley quad.  We needed to get to a few suspected outcrops along the north side of the Middle Fork just east of Shirley.  As we were looking for a way to access them, we stumbled upon the Sid Burgess Historic M&NA Trail which starts in downtown Shirley and ends up about a mile distant at the historic Cottrell-Wilson Cemetery.  As luck would have it, this trail happened to access the very areas we needed to see.  If you’re ever in Shirley, it’s definitely worth checking out!

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We saw mostly thin-bedded sandstone and shale units of the same variety as on the south side of the Middle Fork and Weaver Creek upstream.  There are a few low dips toward the lineation, but nothing indicating a major structure.  I’m thinking this may all be the unit above the Witts Springs (Bloyd Formation) brought down to the southeast by a monocline.  The trouble is, we don’t really know what the Bloyd/Witts Springs contact looks like in this area yet.  That’s something we still need to work out.

Tuesday was wet again, but we set out to finish up the southernmost branch of Lost Creek anyway.  Seems to be mostly Witts Springs in there with some Cane Hill at the bottom of the valley.  We saw some great examples of soft-sediment deformation in some of the silty units on the way down.  Soft sediment deformation occurs during sedimentation when the rapid loading of usually more dense, overlying sediments causes the less dense, buried deposits beneath them to become partially liquefied, which forms various types of disruptions in the original bedding.  This can take the form of simple reorientation of the bedding as we have here, to more complex convolute bedding and flame structures.  I took a photo later in the week of a good flame structure in the Bloyd Formation.  Notice where the shale has been squeezed up between the thick, contorted beds of sandstone.

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Several massive calcareous sandstone units in the Witts Springs again illustrated the dramatic difference between outcrops weathered with and without the influence of groundwater.  Notice how rotten the outcrop of massive sandstone in the photo below left appears.  Also note the green color.  There is a layer of moss and lichen growing over almost the entire rock surface, made possible by its relative saturation by groundwater.  These organisms help accelerate the weathering of the rock, and there are places where you can actually see clumps of moss peeling off the surface along with a layer of sand.  This type of chemical weathering is known as chelation and results in the effective removal of the residual iron cement still holding the rock together after the calcite cement has been dissolved by groundwater.  The photo below right shows how “dry weathering” of a boulder of the same material can result in well-defined liesegang bands.  Highly concentrated iron has cemented these bands within the massive sandstone, and without the influence of groundwater, they are preferentially resistant to weathering, leaving them in bold relief.

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On Friday, we looked at some of the last steep areas we haven’t vistited north of the Middle Fork east of Shirley.  Definitely still have Witts Springs right down to the river there, but there is also a thin- to very thick-bedded unit above it that is probably in the Bloyd.  We saw a fairly recent landslide above the river composed of material from that upper unit.  There was also a good cut and fill channel bed exposed in that unit as well.

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It was warm enough for the critters to be out again this week.  Just when I thought it was safe to put my foot down anywhere I pleased, I nearly stepped on a moccasin.  That’s him slinking back in his hole.  We also saw a western slimy salamander (plethodon albagula?) under some storm debris, which was subsequently replaced.

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Hopefully the warm weather holds out, but the forecast says the bottom may drop out on Friday.  We’ll see!

Until next week, see you on the outcrop!