Navajo Volcanic Field

Location: Chuska Volcanic Field, approx. 35° 25' to 37° N and 108° 25' 109° Ship Rock, 36° 41' N, 108° 40' W, San Juan County
Type: Group of intrusions and associated extrusive rocks. (Chuska Mountains, northwestern New Mexico)
Age: Middle Oligocene; fission track ages at Ship Rock (on southern dike) 27 ?3 and 32?3 million years; K-Ar, 30.6 million years

The most famous example of a volcanic neck; unusual near-surface preservation of mafic mid-Tertiary volcanoes

Geological Overview

The Navajo volcanic field is a diffuse group of intrusions, dikes, and some extrusive rocks of early Neogene (mid-Cenozoic) age scattered between Gallup and Farmington, New Mexico and Window Rock, Arizona. The most famous intrusion is Ship Rock. Intrusive rocks in the Navajo volcanic field, like most of those elsewhere within Colorado Plateaus province, include some unusual ultramfic petrographies such as minette, vogesite, and kimberlite as well as altered and serpentinized basaltic tuff and tuff breccia.

As a rule these types of volcanic rocks are indicative of derivation of magmas from deep within the continental lithosphere and from a mantle source that is somewhat different in composition than "typical" mantle. Minette consists of alkali feldspar, biotite or phlogopite, and diopside. Diopside (pyroxene), phlogopitic biotite and olivine occur as phenocrysts in many hand samples.

The Buell Park diatreme, which consists of kimberlite, is also part of the field. Kimberlite is the host rock for diamonds in many places in the world, because kimberlite is erupted from great depths where diamonds are initially formed. Both Buell Park and the Green Knobs are ultramafic beccias and consists mostly of serpentinized olivine and pyroxene.


The Beast, an isolated intrusion, is typical of the scattered smaller volcanic intrusions throughout the Navajo volcanic field. Photo, L. Crumpler



Photo L. Crumpler



View Navajo Volc Field/Chuska Mtt./Narbona Pass in a larger map

Related New Mexico Volcanoes

Ship Rock

Narbona Pass volcano, Chuska Mountains

Further Reading

Petrology/General Geology:
Appledorn, C.R., and H.W. Wright, Jr., Volcanic structures in the Chuska Mountains, Navajo Reservation, Arizona-New Mexico. Geol. Soc. America Bulletin, 68, 445-467, 1957.

Beaumont, E.C., Preliminary geologic map of the Ship Rock and Hogback quadrangles, San Juan County, New Mexico. U. S. Geol. Survey Coal Investigation Map C-29, scale 1:48,000, 1955.

Ehrenberg, S.N., Petrology of potassic volcanic rocks and ultramafic xenoliths from the Navajo volcanic field, New Mexico and Arizona. Los Angeles, Univ. California. Ph.D. thesis, 259p., 1978.

Goff, F, Green Knobs ultramafic diatreme and carbon dioxide sequestration investigation. NM Geological Society Field Conference Guidebook 54, 16-17, 2003.

Gregory, H.E., Geology of the Navajo country. U. S. Geol. Survey Professional Paper 93, 161p., 1917.

Naeser, C.W., Geochronology of the Navajo-Hopi diatremes, Four Corners area [Colorado]. Jour. Geophys. Res., 76, 4978-4985, 1971.

Nicholls, J. W., Studies of the volcanic petrology of the Navajo-Hopi area, Arizona. Berkely, Univ. California, Ph.D. thesis, 107p., 1969.

Semken, S.C., The Navajo volcanic field, Volcanology in New Mexico, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin 18, p. 79-83.

Williams, H., Pliocene volcanoes of the Navajo-Hopi country. Geol. Soc. America Bulletin, 47, 111-171, 1936.

Volcanology/Dike Mechanics:
Delaney, P. T., and D. Pollard, Deformation of host rocks and flow of magma during growth of minette dikes and breccia-bearing intrusions near Ship Rock, New Mexico. U. S. Geol. Survey Professional Paper 1201, 61p., 1981.



All text and photo credit due to Dr. Larry Crumpler, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science 

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