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Book Chapter

Rôle of Diastrophism in Topography of Corpus Christi Area, South Texas

W. Armstrong Price
W. Armstrong Price
Corpus Christi, Texas
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January 01, 1936


Corpus Christi is at the center of an area of 35 by 45 miles covered by detailed topographic maps with scale of 1 to 62,500 and 5-foot contours. This area is studied in detail and illustrations from a group of similar maps in Kenedy and Cameron counties, on the south, are chosen. The topographic features are described, with physiographic origins and history. Wells drilled on "unusual topography," or in "broken country," or on surface mounds, without regard to physiographic origins, will continue to produce a high percentage of failures here.

Only one topographic feature of local diastrophic origin is found—a fault scarp or fault-line scarp. This lies east of the White Point producing area and divides the Saxet producing area into two parts. Some gas has been found across this supposed fault in each field, but with no records of steady production. Dry holes have been drilled on the scarp not far from producing wells in the Saxet field. Oil wells also occur on it.

This fault offsets the upland (Beaumont) deltaic plain and two terraces of Nueces River by 15 feet, vertically, producing a disturbance of gradients in the valley for 7 miles upstream. A distributary of ancient Nueces River probably turned at right angles to its former course on meeting the White Point structural uplift and continued along the bearing of the supposed fault for 8 miles away from the present entrenched valley to Taft.

The general topographic features of the area are described from the physiographic viewpoint. Some of these, of non-diastrophic origin, have been thought by some to indicate diastrophic structures and oil occurrence. These include round bays, distributary ridges, segments of a ridge of windblown sand (ancient offshore bar) and intra-meander mounds. The occurrence of oyster, clam, and snail shells of marine types on high bluffs on the ground surface and in soil is of general, not local, distribution along tidewater bluffs, both high and low, and is solely of Indian origin. Asphalt on gulf beaches either floats ashore from oil seepages in the gulf, from oil waste of ships, as asphalt eroded from South American asphalt lakes, or in barrels from lost cargo and is of general distribution along the offshore-bar beach. Sharp contact of fresh and salty waters in shallow sands along the west side of the ancient offshore bar for 100 miles along the coast is not due to faulting, but to accumulation of rain-water in the dune-sand ridges and its downward and outward penetration into underlying sediments to depths of 100 feet and the resulting contact with the normal saline waters of the area. Large playa basins in the South Texas sand plain south of the area, with associated mounds of clay-dune origin, are wind-scooped and wind-deposited features. The saline ground waters have accumulated by evaporation of in-flowing surface run-off from higher prairie areas and by salt blown inland with silt from coastal flats and with fogs.

Negative evidence from physiography is not considered adequate to condemn any locality in the area as an oil and gas prospect, because we do not yet know the diastrophic history of the area, including the dates of the last deformation at different points. The occurrence of concentric or extensive linear alignment of slopes on topographic features of diverse origins is considered to be strongly suggestive of diastrophic deformation in the subsurface, with reflected surface expression. An example of fresh fault scarps a short distance west of the area shows that other parts of South Texas may hold other such evident topographic effects of diastrophic disturbances.

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Figures & Tables


AAPG Special Publication

Gulf Coast Oil Fields: A Symposium on the Gulf Coast Cenozoic

Donald C. Barton
Donald C. Barton
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George Sawtelle
George Sawtelle
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American Association of Petroleum Geologists
ISBN electronic:
Publication date:
January 01, 1936




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