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Taos Plateau Volcanic Field

36° 36' N latitude, 105° 48' W longitude, Taos County
Tholeiitic sheet flows, scoria/spatter cones, and silicic shield volcanoes and domes
~4 million to 1.8 million years (area includes some 22 million year old vents)
Largest volcanic field within the Rio Grande rift and unusual silicic shield volcanoes

Geologic Overview

The Taos volcanic field is the largest volcanic field within the Rio Grande rift. It is petrologically and volcanologically diverse, including compositions from tholeiite to rhyolite, and vent morphologies from cinder cones to steep-sided domical volcanoes. The field covers over 7,000 km2 and shares the broad valley floor with the Rio Grande which cuts through extensive sheets of thick lavas, the Serviellta basalts, to form the Rio Grande Gorge. It is bounded on the east side by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and on the west by the Tusas Mountains. On the north it terminates near the Colorado border and on the south squeezes into the narrow constriction between the Taos basin and the Espanola basin.

Aerial oblique view northwest  across the southern part of  the Rio Grande Gorge towards Cerro Montoso, Cerro de la Olla, and San Antonio volcanoes. Photo, L. Crumpler

View eastward from the base of San Antonio volcano across the Taos Plateau floor to the Ute Mountain volcano.  The Sangre de Cristo range is in the distance behind Ute Mountain. Photo L. Crumpler

 Areial oblique view  of Ute Mountain volcano. View is directed to the northwest. Photo L. Crumpler

Cerro de la Olla, an elongate andesitic shield volcano in the central Toas Plateau volcanic field. This view is toward the east from Highway 285 just north of Tres Piedras. The Sangre de Cristo range at Taos lies in the distance. Photo L. Crumpler

Photo L. Crumpler

Classic "artist" view of the Taos Gorge. The hills in the distance are individual volcanoes of the Taos Plateau field. Photo L. Crumpler


View Taos Plateau Volcanic Field in a larger map

 Additional Information

 Petrology/ General Geology:

Aoki, K., Petrography and petrochemistry of latest Pliocene olivine tholeiites of Taos area, northern New Mexico, USA, Contr. Min. Petrology, 14, 191-203, 1967. Basaltic Volcanism Study Project, Continental Rift Volcanism: Rio Grande Rift. in Baslatic Volcanism on the Terrestrial Planets, Pergamon Press, p. 109-131, 1981. Brookins, D. G., Eppler, D., and Elston, W.E., Sr isotope initial ratios from the San Antonio Mountain area, New Mexico, Isochron/West, 20, 17, 1977.

Burroughs, R. L., Neogene volcanism in the southern San Luis Basin. New Mexico Geological Society Guidebook, 25th Field Conference, 291-294, 1974.

Butler, A. P., Tertiary Volcanic Stratigraphy of the Eastern Tusas Mountains, Southwest of the San Luis Valley, Colorado-New Mexico. New Mexico Geological Society, 22nd Field Conference, 289-300, 1971.

Butler, A. P., Tertiary and Quaternary Geology of the Tusas-Res Piedras area, New Mexico. Unpub. Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 188p., 1946.

Eppler, D., The geology of the San Antonio Mountain area, Tre Piederas, Taos and Rio Arriba Counties, New Mexico, unpublished MS Thesis, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, 77p., 1976. Lambert, W. , Notes on the late Cenozoic Geology of the Taos-Questa Area, New Mexico. New Mexico Geological Society Guidebook, 17th Field Conference, 43-50, 1966.

Lipman, P. W., Alkalic and tholeiitic basaltic vlcanism related to the Rio Grande Depression, Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. Geol. Soc. America Bulletin, 80, 1343-1354, 1969. Lipman, P. W. and Mehnert, H.H., The Taos Plateau volcanic fields, northern Rio Grande Rift, New Mexico. In Rio Grande Rift: Tectonics and Magmatism (Rieker, R.E.. ed.) p. 289-312, Amer. geophys. Union, Washington, DC, 1979.

Lipman, P.W., and Baldridge, W.S., Taos, New Mexico. in Volcanoes of North America, Wood, C.A. and Kienle, J., editors, Cambridge University Press, p. 290-292, 1990.

Mickelsen, M. B., History, Location and Devcelopment of the Johns- Manville Perlite Deposits, No Agua, New Mexico. New Mexico Geological Society, 22nd Field Conference, 321, 1971. Naert, K.A, Geology, extrusion history, and analysis of perlites from No Agua, New Mexico, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania, 223p., 1974.

Ozima, M., M. Kono, Kaneoka, I, Kinoshita, H., Nagata,T., Larson, E.E., and Strangway D.W., Paleomagnetism and potassium-argon ages of some volcanic rocks from the Rio Grande Gorge, New Mexico, Jour. Geophys. Res., 72, 2615-2622, 1967.

Volcanology: (no modern studies)

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