Tag Archives: sandstone

Geo-pic of the week: Zebra Weathering

Zebra weathering enhanced

Pictured above is an exposure of Prairie Grove Sandstone near Durham, Arkansas, southeast of Fayetteville.  The ribbed, planar faces that are central in the photo resulted from a weathering phenomenon called zebra weathering.

Zebra weathering occurs in sandstones cemented with calcite – a soluble mineral.  Calcite is common in marine sediment and, in the tidal environment where this rock was deposited, marine sediment mixed with insoluble sand from the continent.   The ratio of marine sediment to sand changed continuously in that environment due to seasonal and climatic cycles.  Today, the beds of sandstone weather at different rates depending on their calcite content.  As the rock weathers, the sandier beds stand out in relief since they wear away more slowly than the soluble beds between them.  Hence, the banded zebra pattern.

Geo-pic of the week: Frankenstein scar on stylolite

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I was working near Lake Fort Smith State Park this last week when I came across a peculiar mineral deposit resembling Frankenstein’s Scars (Fig. 2).  It was just in time for Halloween!  The resemblance is uncanny.  Despite the horror, there is a lot of geology illustrated in this rock. 

The mineral that forms the “scars” seen in the photo is called limonite, and it was deposited within a cavity in a stylolite.  A stylolite is a surface, typically a bedding plane, that has recrystallized due to pressure from the weight of overlying rock material.  Stylolites can be recognized by their rough, jagged appearance (it’s difficult to see in this photo, but trust me – it’s there).  The limonite “scars” formed in a pattern called boxwork and, surrounding the boxwork, limonite is also present in botryoidal form: a crystal shape resembling small round globs (the orange goosebumps around the scars).

At this time, rocks are not thought to celebrate Halloween, although more work needs to be done to verify that.

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

Notes from the Field

 

On a recent fieldtrip I realized how many great geologic features exist in the Everton Formation of northern Arkansas. Here’s a little background on the Everton Formation. The Everton Formation is named for exposures near the town of Everton in Boone County, Arkansas. All geologic formations are named for nearby geographic locations. This formation was deposited during the Middle Ordovician Period which means it formed around 470 million years ago. It crops out across northern Arkansas from Beaver Lake in Benton County to Sharp County. Depending on where you are in that portion of the state you might see sandstone, limestone, dolostone, or all three rock types.

Now let’s look at some neat features in the Everton Formation. We’ll start with stromatolites. Stromatolites are laminated structures built by blue-green algae, also called cyanobacteria, one of the simplest and earliest known life forms. Notice the mounded laminations in the photo below. These are stromatolites. The rock is a fine-grained limestone. Also notice the bumpy, weathered surface mid-photo. This is where individual stromatolites are weathering out of the rock.

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The next photo shows a better look at the top of this weathered surface. Finding these fossilized accretionary structures in outcrop helps geologists determine the environment in which this rock formed – in this case, a tidal flat.

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The next photo shows that modern stromatalites are still forming in similar environments today.

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Next, let’s look at travertine. Travertine is a chemically-precipitated, continental limestone composed of calcite or aragonite that forms around seepages, springs, and along rivers and streams (Pentecost, 2010). Precipitation results primarily through the transfer of carbon dioxide to or from a groundwater source, which leads to supersaturation and crystal growth on surfaces. Travertine cascades and dams are present on many of the small streams that are sourced by springs issuing from the limestone and dolostone of the Everton Formation.

The first photo shows a travertine cascade over a dolostone ledge.

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The second photo shows a geologist standing beside a tall travertine dam across a small creek.

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Finally, have a look at these fossilized mud cracks. These formed in a similar way to modern mud cracks. These rocks were originally mud that dried out and formed polygonal cracks. These were later filled with additional mud and over time all of it lithified into dolostone. Mud cracks preserved in this manner are another clue that helps geologists determine the environment in which the sediment was deposited. Again, this would indicate a tidal flat.

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Till next time. Get out in the field!!

Angela Chandler

Geo-pic of the week: Flute casts

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Fig. A – Many flute casts that truncate one another.  Black arrow points downstream.

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Fig. B – Flute casts with characteristic round heads pointing in upstream direction.  Black arrow points downstream.

 

Pictured above are beds of sandstone displaying flute casts.  Flute casts are common in channel environments (for instance river channels) where water is carrying sediment and debris (rocks, shells, sticks etc..). 

As debris is carried along, it randomly grazes the mud in the channel bottom, scouring divots.  The divots are typically deeper and narrower in the upstream direction, with a round head pointing upstream.  Flute casts form subsequently when sand in-fills these divots and later becomes a rock, preserving casts of the divots on the bottom of the sand bed. 

Flow direction indicators, such as flute casts, are one of many clues geologists use to reconstruct the history of the earth.

Geopic of the week: Waterfalls

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Everyone knows that a waterfall is a place where a river or creek flows over a vertical drop-off, but did you know that there is a geologic reason why they form?  A waterfall, like Cedar Falls pictured above, forms where a hard, resistant rock such as sandstone overlies a soft, easily eroded rock like shale.  The difference in the rate each rock type weathers is what creates the waterfall.

When a stream passes over a single rock type, it erodes it evenly, carving a channel with a gradual slope.  However, when a stream’s course passes from a hard to a soft bedrock, it scours the soft rock at a faster rate.  As the supporting soft rock is eroded, the overlying harder rock progressively collapses, creating a vertical bluff over which the stream flows.  As this process continues an ever taller waterfall develops, and the location of the waterfall gradually migrates upstream.

Because we know how landforms such as waterfalls form, geologists can use tools, like aerial photographs and satellite images, to predict what kind of rock will be in an area before ever going there.

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