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Book Chapter

Origin of Caves in the Capitan

By
Carol A. Hill
Carol A. Hill
17 El Arco DriveAlbuquerque, New Mexico 87123
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Published:
January 01, 1999

Abstract

Caves exist in the Capitan Formation in the Guadalupe, Apache, and Glass Mountains, southeastern New Mexico and West Texas. Four episodes of karsting have been identified in the Guadalupe Mountains: (1) Stage 1 fissure karst (Late Permian), (2) Stage 2 spongework karst (Mesozoic), (3) Stage 3 thermal karst (Miocene), and (4) Stage 4 sulfuric acid karst (late Miocene to present). The last sulfuric acid episode was responsible for the large cave passages and for the distinctive deposits within these caves (gypsum blocks; native sulfur; the pH-indicator minerals endeliite, alunite, and natroaiunite; and the uranium minerals tyuyamunite and metatyuyamunite). The hydrogen sulfide responsible for forming sulfuric acid in the Capitan reef originated from hydrocarbons in the Delaware Basin. Stage 4 caves in the Glass Mountains are also of sulfuric acid origin, showing that the basin probably degassed hydrogen sulfide around its entire margin. Caves also exist in the subsurface Capitan on the eastern and northern sides of the Delaware Basin. San Simon Swale/Sink on the east and breccia pipes/domes on the north may stope down to the cavernous Capitan. The same sulfuric acid mechanism that formed caves in the exposed Capitan may have also been partly responsible for caves in the subsurface Capitan.

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Contents

SEPM Special Publication

Geologic Framework of the Capitan Reef

Arthur H. Saller
Arthur H. Saller
Unocal Corporation
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Paul M. (Mitch) Harris
Paul M. (Mitch) Harris
Chevron Petroleum Technology Company
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Brenda L. Kirkland
Brenda L. Kirkland
University of Texas
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S. J. Mazzullo
S. J. Mazzullo
Wichita State University
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SEPM Society for Sedimentary Geology
Volume
65
ISBN electronic:
9781565761872
Publication date:
January 01, 1999

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