Carrizozo lava flow

Location: 33° 20' N to 33° 53' N, 106° W, Lincoln County
Type: Basaltic lava flow
Age: Holocene, ~5,000 years

One of the latest young lava flows on Earth


Between alkalic and tholeiitic basalt

Geological Overview

The Carrizozo flow (Keszthelyi and Pieri, 1993) is 75 km long from the vent area to the distal margin in the Tularosa Valley (Zimbelman and Johnston, 2002). The entire flow covers ~330 km2 to an estimated thickness of 10 to 15 m, for a total estimated erupted volume of ~4.3 km3 (Allen, 1951). The lava is intermediate in composition between alkalic and tholeiitic basalt. Its location and age is consistent with the regional volcanism elsewhere that is fundamentally associated with the Rio Grande rift (Renault, 1970; Faris, 1980; Anthony et al., 1998). Various researchers (e.g., Anthony et al., 1998; Dunbar, 1999) have distinguished between upper and lower Carrizozo flow units, separated by a narrow “neck” in the medial reach (Keszthelyi and Pieri, 1993). However, chemical analyses to date have revealed no evidence for distinct differences between the upper and lower lavas. Cosmogenic (isotopic changes induced by exposure to high energy particles) studies indicate exposure ages of 4800 yrs (Anthony et al., 1998) to 5200 yrs (Dunbar, 1999) for the Carrizozo flow, well within the 1700 and 700 yr error estimates, respectively. These results make the Carrizozo flow the second youngest volcanism in New Mexico (Anthony et al., 1998), after only the McCartys flow.


The vent area for the Carrizozo lava flow, Little Black Peak. Photo: L. Crumpler



On the traverse from the margins of the flow to the vent area (Little Black Peak) there are some skylights into lava tubes. Photo: L. Crumpler


The Carrizozo lava flow extends from its source a few kilometers north of the current Highway 380 southward to the extreme northern end of White Sands. Most of the flow south of Highway 380 lies within the White Sands Missle Range.


View Carrizozo Lava Flow in a larger map

Further Reading

Additional Information from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

Anthony, E. Y., J. Hoffer, W. J. Williams, J. Poth, and B. Penn, Geochemistry and geo chronology of Quaternary mafic volcanic rocks in the vicinity of Carrizozo, New Mexico: New Mexico Geological Society 49th Field Conference Guidebook, Las Cruces Country II, p. 117-122, 1998.

Dunbar, N.W., Cosmogenic 36Cl-determined age of the Carrizozo lava flows, south- central New Mexico. New Mexico Geology, v, 21, p. 25-28., 1999.

Keszthelyi, L.P., and D. C. Pieri, Emplacement of the 75-km-long Carrizozo lava flow field, south-central New Mexico. J. Volc. Geotherm. Res., v. 59, p. 59-75, 1993.

Zimbelman, J. R., and A. K. Johnston, Improved topography of the Carrizozo lava flow: implications for emplacement conditions. in Volcanology in New Mexico, Crumpler, L. and Lucas, S., eds. NM Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin 18, 131-136, 2001.

Zimbelman, J. R., and A. K. Johnston, New precision topographic measurements of the Carrizozo and McCartys basalt flows, New Mexico, New Mexico Geol. Soc. 53rd Field Conf, Geology of White Sands, 121-127, 2003.


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

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