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OVERVIEW OF THE GEOLOGIC HISTORY OF CAVE DEVELOPMENT IN THE GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS, NEW MEXICO

OVERVIEW OF THE GEOLOGIC HISTORY OF CAVE DEVELOPMENT IN THE GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS, NEW MEXICO,CAROL A. HILL

OVERVIEW OF THE GEOLOGIC HISTORY OF CAVE DEVELOPMENT IN THE GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS, NEW MEXICO   (Citations: 4)
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This paper provides an overview of events affecting cave development in the Guadalupe Mountains of New Mexico. Table 1 outlines the sequence of karst events, integrated with the regional geology. This overview is also intended to provide a geologic framework for the other papers in this Symposium. The Guadalupe Mountains are located in southeastern New Mexico and west Texas (Fig. 1). The caves in these mountains are developed in the Capitan Reef Complex—a horseshoe- shaped ring or belt of Permian-age limestone and dolomite rock ~8 km wide and ~650 km long that defines the perimeter of the Delaware Basin. The Capitan Formation in the Delaware Basin is exposed in the northwestern Guadalupe Mountains section, the southwestern Apache Mountains section, and the southeastern Glass Mountains section, but is located in the subsurface on the eastern and northern sides of the basin. Its whereabouts is unknown in the western, Salt Basin side of the Delaware Basin (Fig. 1). Caves exist in all parts of the Capitan reef, including the eastern and northern subsurface sections and Apache and Glass Mountain exposed sections (Hill 1996, 1999a), but the largest number of accessible and spectacular The sequence of events relating to the geologic history of cave development in the Guadalupe Mountains, New Mexico, traces from the Permian to the present. In the Late Permian, the reef, forereef, and backreef units of the Capitan Reef Complex were deposited, and the arrangement, differential dolomitization, jointing, and folding of these stratigraphic units have influenced cave development since that time. Four episodes of karsification occurred in the Guadalupe Mountains: Stage 1 fissure caves (Late Permian) developed primarily along zones of weakness at the reef/backreef contact; Stage 2 spongework caves (Mesozoic) developed as small interconnected dissolution cavities during limestone mesogenesis; Stage 3 thermal caves (Miocene?) formed by dissolution of hydrothermal water; Stage 4 sulfuric acid caves (Miocene-Pleistocene) formed by H 2S-sulfuric acid dissolution derived hypogenically from hydro- carbons. This last episode is reponsible for the large caves in the Guadalupe Mountains containing gyp- sum blocks/rinds, native sulfur, endellite, alunite, and other deposits related to a sulfuric acid speleoge- netic mechanism.
Published in 2000.
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