Posts

GeoSights: Pine Park and the Ancient Supervolcanoes of Southwestern Utah

GeoSights: Pine Park and the Ancient Supervolcanoes of Southwestern Utah

By Lance Weaver


Hidden in a remote corner of Washington County is a fascinating place nearly forgotten among the other attractions of southern Utah. The scenic Pine Park area exposes intriguing volcanic deposits that reveal the story of the largest volcanic eruptions in Utah’s geologic history. Although the beautiful exposures outcrop in only a small area, the eruptions that produced the volcanic deposits in this part of Utah were some of the largest in Earth’s history.

Exposures of the Tuff of Honeycomb Rock at Pine Park.

Exposures of the Tuff of Honeycomb Rock at Pine Park.

Pine Park is located approximately 20 miles (32km) southwest of Enterprise in the southwest corner of Utah. It is one of several attractions located on the upper Beaver Dam Wash. The region supports a high desert forest of juniper, pinyon, and large ponderosa pine trees, which thrive in the well-drained volcanic soils. The main attractions in Pine Park are bright white volcanic ash-flow tuff exposures that form a landscape of hoodoos, pyramid- and mushroom-shaped domes, and undulating slickrock basins. Many of these vistas resemble the hoodoos and knobs of the better-known Goblin Valley State Park of central Utah, or the Toadstools area near Lake Powell’s Wahweap Bay. However, instead of the familiar sandstone and claystone of Utah’s Colorado Plateau, these spires have eroded from thick deposits of white volcanic ash-flow tuff known as the Tuff of Honeycomb Rock. An ash-flow tuff is a type of rock made of volcanic ash, rock, and gases derived from explosive volcanic eruptions.

A few miles to the west down Pine Park Canyon, at Beaver Dam State Park in Nevada, the same types of ashflow tuff deposits create scenic vistas like those of Pine Park. These two attractions showcase just a small piece of the voluminous ash-flow tuff deposits that blanket the region. Called “supervolcanoes” or “super-eruptions” because of their immense size, these types of eruptions tend to leave behind massive, often miles-wide, craters called calderas instead of the typical pyramid-shaped cones of stratovolcanoes. A caldera’s large, cauldron-like hollow or valley forms after magma erupts and the ground surface above the magma chamber collapses.

Miocene- to Oligocene-age (12 to 36 million years ago) supervolcanoes, caldera complexes, and volcanic deposits, which stretch from south-central and western Utah through Nevada and eastern California. From Best and others, 2013, Geosphere article: https://doi.org/10.1130/GES00945.1

Miocene- to Oligocene-age (12 to 36 million years ago) supervolcanoes, caldera complexes, and volcanic deposits, which stretch from south-central and western Utah through Nevada and eastern California. From Best and others, 2013, Geosphere article: https://doi.org/10.1130/GES00945.1

Pine Park lies at the edge of the ancient Pine Park caldera—one of dozens of calderas spanning from southwestern Utah, across central Nevada, to the border of eastern California. These supervolcanoes were active between 12 and 36 million years ago, when Utah was home to rhinoceros, camels, tortoises, and palm trees. Although the Tuff of Honeycomb Rock that outcrops at Pine Park is locally derived from a smaller ancient caldera, many of the ash-flow tuffs in the area are derived from the nearby Indian Peak–Caliente caldera complex, formed by some of the largest ancient super-eruptions in North America. Geologists have found deposits 2.5 miles (4 km) thick that are believed to have come from a single incredible eruption from the Indian Peak–Caliente caldera complex 30 million years ago. Over 1,300 cubic miles (5,400 km3) of volcanic materials have been found from this eruption spanning from central Utah to central Nevada and from Fillmore, Utah, on the north to Cedar City, Utah, on the south—over 1,000 times the volume of material ejected during the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption (about 1 cubic mile [4 km3]). And this caldera was only one of up to 20 calderas in the region.

Since the eruption of the volcanoes that created the deposits of Pine Park, extension of the Earth’s crust across the Basin and Range Province has torn apart much of western Utah and has vastly altered the landscape and drainages. Without geologists studying the thick volcanic deposits such as those exposed at Pine Park, people may have never known the extent to which ancient volcanoes altered the landscape of this part of southern Utah.

How to Get There:

To get to Pine Park, head west on Main Street from the town of Enterprise, Utah, toward Panaca on State Route 219. Continue past the signs pointing to Enterprise Reservoir. After a few miles the paved road will transition to a nicely graded dirt road. After driving 12.6 miles from Enterprise, take a left on Forest Service Road 001 (White Rocks Road) and continue west-southwest 9.5 miles. Along the last mile, the road becomes rougher and turns sharply to the southeast and snakes its way down into the valley. The road ends at a creek and primitive campsite. There are no bathroom or potable water facilities.

GPS Coordinates: 37° 31′ 19.4″ N 114° 01′ 22.5″ W

Survey Notes v.48 no.1, January 2016

The latest Survey Notes is here!

Survey Notes v.48 no.1, January 2016

Our latest issue of Survey Notes is here! Find articles on the new Ogden 30′ x 60′ geological map, the Markagunt Gravity Slide, and more among our regular feature columns.

VIEW THE LATEST ISSUE

Check out past issues of Survey Notes too!

Looking for somewhere fun to go in Utah this weekend?

Looking for somewhere fun to go in Utah this weekend? You don’t even have to leave home! Check out our GeoSights virtual tour page to find some of Utah’s coolest places!

VIEW HERE

Survey Notes volume 26 number 3

Current Issue Contents:

• The Uinta Mountains: A Tale of Two Geographies
• In Memoriam: Lehi F. Hintze
• Students Fill the GIS Gap
• The 2014 Crawford Award
• GeoSights: Roosevelt Hot Springs Geothermal Area, Beaver County
• New Publications
• Teacher’s Corner
• Core Center News
• Glad You Asked: What are keeper potholes & how are they formed?

GET IT HERE

VIEW PAST ISSUES

 

GeoSights—The Goosenecks of the San Juan River, San Juan County, Utah

What in the world is a gooseneck? When it comes to describing a landform, fowl play (pun intended) may seem apparent. Even when you are standing in front of one, the answer is not obvious. Not until you get a look from above does this name start to make sense.

READ MORE

Survey Notes volume 46 number 1

Current Issue Contents:

  • Microbial Carbonate Reservoirs and the Utah Geological Survey’s “Invasion” of London
  • Utah Still Supplying Gilsonite to the World After 125 Years
  • Frack Sand in Utah?
  • Energy News
  • GeoSights: St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson’s Farm, Washington County
  • Glad You Asked: How can sedimentary rocks tell you about Utah’s history?
  • Teacher’s Corner
  • Survey News
  • New Publications

GET IT HERE

PAST ISSUES

GeoSights—Comb Ridge, San Juan County, Utah

One may say Comb Ridge was Mother Nature’s way of splitting southern San Juan County with an enormous
wall. Another may say it was a giant skateboard ramp for dinosaurs. One thing is certain: Comb Ridge is a spectacular
ridge of steeply tilted sandstone rock layers, trending north-south for approximately 80 miles from Utah’s Abajo Mountains to Kayenta, Arizona. Similar to a rooster’s comb, the jagged appearance of Comb Ridge provides the logic behind its name.

GeoSights—Gandy Warm Springs, Northwestern Millard County, Utah

The entrance to a cave, unofficially called “Beware Cave,” is marked by an overhang under which springs emerge at the deepest part of Gandy Warm Springs and Warm Creek—almost 4 feet deep. Gandy Warm Springs is a refreshing oasis of tiny waterfalls, pools, caves, and crystal clear streams with water temperatures up to 81 ̊F. Located on the western edge of Snake Valley, near the Nevada border, the springs are at the base of the southern tip of Spring Mountain (also called Gandy Mountain). The spring water that cascades down the slope of Spring Mountain joins a larger spring that emerges from a cave, initiating the eastward-flowing Warm Creek (also called Gandy Creek). Lush green vegetation,  including mosses, watercress, and bright green algae, and animals such as aquatic snails (including the endemic springsnail,Pyrgulopsis saxatilis, found only at Gandy) and the native speckled dace wonderfully stand in stark  contrast to the surrounding dry yellow grasses and desert shrubs. Gandy is a popular spot for locals who use the area for soaking, swimming, and baptisms.

GeoSights—Notch Peak—Big Cliff, Millard County, Utah

The enormity and vastness of the cliff forming the north face of Notch Peak is difficult to describe. Standing near the cliff’s base and looking up is awe inspiring. The view while standing at the top and looking over the edge? I would not know as I was on my hands and knees, too fearful to stand and look over the edge at one of the greatest vertical drops in the contiguous U.S.
Reported estimates of the cliff’s actual height vary significantly from under 2,000 feet to over 4,500 feet, which is likely due to differences in defining where the base of the cliff starts. Photogrammetry (measurements from digital stereoscopic photographs), verified with a paper 7.5′ topographic map, suggests the cliff has an uninterrupted near-vertical drop of over 1,500feet. The addition of cliff below a small bench 50 to 100 yards wide increases the distance to approximately 2,250 feet. Adding a portion of the very steep base of the sheer drop  increases the distance to nearly 2,900 feet.

GeoSights—The Witches, Summit County, Utah

Near the town of Echo in northern Utah is a cluster of reddish-brown natural monuments called The Witches (also known as Witch Rocks, Witches Rocks, Witch Bluffs, or Witches Bluffs), composed of the Echo Canyon Conglomerate.

In 1858, army Captain Albert Tracy described them in his journal as “witch-like” and “so singularly like figures in kirtles [long skirts] and steeple-hats, or bonnets that they have received the appellation [Witch Rocks]”. By using your imagination (and perhaps squinting a bit), you can picture a coven of witches in long robes and witches’ hats standing on the hillside.

Nearby Echo Canyon has long been used as a main thoroughfare between southern Wyoming and northern Utah, first by Native Americans, fur trappers, and explorers, then by wagon trains on their way to Salt Lake City or other points west. Before the interstate highway, passengers on the Overland Stage and then the Union Pacific Railroad also made their way through the canyon.

At the town of Echo, the canyon opens into the Henefer Valley where most of these travelers rested and marveled at the unusual rock formations, some even drawing sketches or taking photographs of The Witches.

READ MORE

Pages

GeoSights: Pine Park and the Ancient Supervolcanoes of Southwestern Utah

GeoSights: Pine Park and the Ancient Supervolcanoes of Southwestern Utah

By Lance Weaver


Hidden in a remote corner of Washington County is a fascinating place nearly forgotten among the other attractions of southern Utah. The scenic Pine Park area exposes intriguing volcanic deposits that reveal the story of the largest volcanic eruptions in Utah’s geologic history. Although the beautiful exposures outcrop in only a small area, the eruptions that produced the volcanic deposits in this part of Utah were some of the largest in Earth’s history.

Exposures of the Tuff of Honeycomb Rock at Pine Park.

Exposures of the Tuff of Honeycomb Rock at Pine Park.

Pine Park is located approximately 20 miles (32km) southwest of Enterprise in the southwest corner of Utah. It is one of several attractions located on the upper Beaver Dam Wash. The region supports a high desert forest of juniper, pinyon, and large ponderosa pine trees, which thrive in the well-drained volcanic soils. The main attractions in Pine Park are bright white volcanic ash-flow tuff exposures that form a landscape of hoodoos, pyramid- and mushroom-shaped domes, and undulating slickrock basins. Many of these vistas resemble the hoodoos and knobs of the better-known Goblin Valley State Park of central Utah, or the Toadstools area near Lake Powell’s Wahweap Bay. However, instead of the familiar sandstone and claystone of Utah’s Colorado Plateau, these spires have eroded from thick deposits of white volcanic ash-flow tuff known as the Tuff of Honeycomb Rock. An ash-flow tuff is a type of rock made of volcanic ash, rock, and gases derived from explosive volcanic eruptions.

A few miles to the west down Pine Park Canyon, at Beaver Dam State Park in Nevada, the same types of ashflow tuff deposits create scenic vistas like those of Pine Park. These two attractions showcase just a small piece of the voluminous ash-flow tuff deposits that blanket the region. Called “supervolcanoes” or “super-eruptions” because of their immense size, these types of eruptions tend to leave behind massive, often miles-wide, craters called calderas instead of the typical pyramid-shaped cones of stratovolcanoes. A caldera’s large, cauldron-like hollow or valley forms after magma erupts and the ground surface above the magma chamber collapses.

Miocene- to Oligocene-age (12 to 36 million years ago) supervolcanoes, caldera complexes, and volcanic deposits, which stretch from south-central and western Utah through Nevada and eastern California. From Best and others, 2013, Geosphere article: https://doi.org/10.1130/GES00945.1

Miocene- to Oligocene-age (12 to 36 million years ago) supervolcanoes, caldera complexes, and volcanic deposits, which stretch from south-central and western Utah through Nevada and eastern California. From Best and others, 2013, Geosphere article: https://doi.org/10.1130/GES00945.1

Pine Park lies at the edge of the ancient Pine Park caldera—one of dozens of calderas spanning from southwestern Utah, across central Nevada, to the border of eastern California. These supervolcanoes were active between 12 and 36 million years ago, when Utah was home to rhinoceros, camels, tortoises, and palm trees. Although the Tuff of Honeycomb Rock that outcrops at Pine Park is locally derived from a smaller ancient caldera, many of the ash-flow tuffs in the area are derived from the nearby Indian Peak–Caliente caldera complex, formed by some of the largest ancient super-eruptions in North America. Geologists have found deposits 2.5 miles (4 km) thick that are believed to have come from a single incredible eruption from the Indian Peak–Caliente caldera complex 30 million years ago. Over 1,300 cubic miles (5,400 km3) of volcanic materials have been found from this eruption spanning from central Utah to central Nevada and from Fillmore, Utah, on the north to Cedar City, Utah, on the south—over 1,000 times the volume of material ejected during the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption (about 1 cubic mile [4 km3]). And this caldera was only one of up to 20 calderas in the region.

Since the eruption of the volcanoes that created the deposits of Pine Park, extension of the Earth’s crust across the Basin and Range Province has torn apart much of western Utah and has vastly altered the landscape and drainages. Without geologists studying the thick volcanic deposits such as those exposed at Pine Park, people may have never known the extent to which ancient volcanoes altered the landscape of this part of southern Utah.

How to Get There:

To get to Pine Park, head west on Main Street from the town of Enterprise, Utah, toward Panaca on State Route 219. Continue past the signs pointing to Enterprise Reservoir. After a few miles the paved road will transition to a nicely graded dirt road. After driving 12.6 miles from Enterprise, take a left on Forest Service Road 001 (White Rocks Road) and continue west-southwest 9.5 miles. Along the last mile, the road becomes rougher and turns sharply to the southeast and snakes its way down into the valley. The road ends at a creek and primitive campsite. There are no bathroom or potable water facilities.

GPS Coordinates: 37° 31′ 19.4″ N 114° 01′ 22.5″ W

Survey Notes v.48 no.1, January 2016

The latest Survey Notes is here!

Survey Notes v.48 no.1, January 2016

Our latest issue of Survey Notes is here! Find articles on the new Ogden 30′ x 60′ geological map, the Markagunt Gravity Slide, and more among our regular feature columns.

VIEW THE LATEST ISSUE

Check out past issues of Survey Notes too!

Looking for somewhere fun to go in Utah this weekend?

Looking for somewhere fun to go in Utah this weekend? You don’t even have to leave home! Check out our GeoSights virtual tour page to find some of Utah’s coolest places!

VIEW HERE

Survey Notes volume 26 number 3

Current Issue Contents:

• The Uinta Mountains: A Tale of Two Geographies
• In Memoriam: Lehi F. Hintze
• Students Fill the GIS Gap
• The 2014 Crawford Award
• GeoSights: Roosevelt Hot Springs Geothermal Area, Beaver County
• New Publications
• Teacher’s Corner
• Core Center News
• Glad You Asked: What are keeper potholes & how are they formed?

GET IT HERE

VIEW PAST ISSUES

 

GeoSights—The Goosenecks of the San Juan River, San Juan County, Utah

What in the world is a gooseneck? When it comes to describing a landform, fowl play (pun intended) may seem apparent. Even when you are standing in front of one, the answer is not obvious. Not until you get a look from above does this name start to make sense.

READ MORE

Survey Notes volume 46 number 1

Current Issue Contents:

  • Microbial Carbonate Reservoirs and the Utah Geological Survey’s “Invasion” of London
  • Utah Still Supplying Gilsonite to the World After 125 Years
  • Frack Sand in Utah?
  • Energy News
  • GeoSights: St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson’s Farm, Washington County
  • Glad You Asked: How can sedimentary rocks tell you about Utah’s history?
  • Teacher’s Corner
  • Survey News
  • New Publications

GET IT HERE

PAST ISSUES

GeoSights—Comb Ridge, San Juan County, Utah

One may say Comb Ridge was Mother Nature’s way of splitting southern San Juan County with an enormous
wall. Another may say it was a giant skateboard ramp for dinosaurs. One thing is certain: Comb Ridge is a spectacular
ridge of steeply tilted sandstone rock layers, trending north-south for approximately 80 miles from Utah’s Abajo Mountains to Kayenta, Arizona. Similar to a rooster’s comb, the jagged appearance of Comb Ridge provides the logic behind its name.

GeoSights—Gandy Warm Springs, Northwestern Millard County, Utah

The entrance to a cave, unofficially called “Beware Cave,” is marked by an overhang under which springs emerge at the deepest part of Gandy Warm Springs and Warm Creek—almost 4 feet deep. Gandy Warm Springs is a refreshing oasis of tiny waterfalls, pools, caves, and crystal clear streams with water temperatures up to 81 ̊F. Located on the western edge of Snake Valley, near the Nevada border, the springs are at the base of the southern tip of Spring Mountain (also called Gandy Mountain). The spring water that cascades down the slope of Spring Mountain joins a larger spring that emerges from a cave, initiating the eastward-flowing Warm Creek (also called Gandy Creek). Lush green vegetation,  including mosses, watercress, and bright green algae, and animals such as aquatic snails (including the endemic springsnail,Pyrgulopsis saxatilis, found only at Gandy) and the native speckled dace wonderfully stand in stark  contrast to the surrounding dry yellow grasses and desert shrubs. Gandy is a popular spot for locals who use the area for soaking, swimming, and baptisms.

GeoSights—Notch Peak—Big Cliff, Millard County, Utah

The enormity and vastness of the cliff forming the north face of Notch Peak is difficult to describe. Standing near the cliff’s base and looking up is awe inspiring. The view while standing at the top and looking over the edge? I would not know as I was on my hands and knees, too fearful to stand and look over the edge at one of the greatest vertical drops in the contiguous U.S.
Reported estimates of the cliff’s actual height vary significantly from under 2,000 feet to over 4,500 feet, which is likely due to differences in defining where the base of the cliff starts. Photogrammetry (measurements from digital stereoscopic photographs), verified with a paper 7.5′ topographic map, suggests the cliff has an uninterrupted near-vertical drop of over 1,500feet. The addition of cliff below a small bench 50 to 100 yards wide increases the distance to approximately 2,250 feet. Adding a portion of the very steep base of the sheer drop  increases the distance to nearly 2,900 feet.

GeoSights—The Witches, Summit County, Utah

Near the town of Echo in northern Utah is a cluster of reddish-brown natural monuments called The Witches (also known as Witch Rocks, Witches Rocks, Witch Bluffs, or Witches Bluffs), composed of the Echo Canyon Conglomerate.

In 1858, army Captain Albert Tracy described them in his journal as “witch-like” and “so singularly like figures in kirtles [long skirts] and steeple-hats, or bonnets that they have received the appellation [Witch Rocks]”. By using your imagination (and perhaps squinting a bit), you can picture a coven of witches in long robes and witches’ hats standing on the hillside.

Nearby Echo Canyon has long been used as a main thoroughfare between southern Wyoming and northern Utah, first by Native Americans, fur trappers, and explorers, then by wagon trains on their way to Salt Lake City or other points west. Before the interstate highway, passengers on the Overland Stage and then the Union Pacific Railroad also made their way through the canyon.

At the town of Echo, the canyon opens into the Henefer Valley where most of these travelers rested and marveled at the unusual rock formations, some even drawing sketches or taking photographs of The Witches.

READ MORE