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Miscellaneous Investigations Series Map I-1907

Geologic Map of the Latir Volcanic Field and Adjacent Areas, Northern New Mexico

By Peter W. Lipman and John C. Reed Jr.
Digital edition and database by Theodore R. Brandt

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (47.2 MB)Abstract

This map was first published as a printed edition in 1989. The geologic data have now been captured digitally and are presented here along with images of the printed map sheet and component parts as PDF files.

This map encompasses all or parts of ten 7.5 minute quadrangles in the Taos Range of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico. Geologic mapping was initiated in this area by the U.S. Geological Survey in response to its mandate under the Wilderness Act of 1964 to evaluate the mineral resource potential of the Latir and Wheeler Peak Wildernesses and the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Study Area in the Carson National Forest. The mapping was later extended to adjacent areas in order to better understand the regional geology and geologic history of the range. A total of 550 published and previously unpublished chemical analyses for volcanic rocks (table 1) and intrusions (table 2) of the Questa-Latir area, along with an explanatory pamphlet, are listed in the tables tab of the Downloads Directory.

The present map focuses on the early Tertiary (largely Oligocene) Latir Volcanic Field and plutonic rocks associated with it. The basement rocks in the map area are Paleoproterozic amphibolite-facies metasedimentary and metavolcanic rocks intruded by large bodies of quartz monzonite, granodiorite and gabbro dated at between 1,750 and 1,690 Ma. The basement rocks are locally overlain by Mississippian limestone or by Pennsylvanian and Permian redbeds. The basement rocks were thrust eastward across a thick section of similar late Paleozoic rocks along low-angle faults during the Laramide Orogeny. Post-Laramide erosion largely removed the sedimentary cover from the basement rocks and reduced the topography to a low-relief surface locally overlain by scattered lenses of Eocene to Oligocene shale, sandstone, and conglomerate. It was on this surface that the earliest rocks of the Latir Volcanic Field were deposited, beginning in the Oligocene, about 30 Ma.

The early volcanic rocks comprise a thick sequence of andesite, dacite, and minor rhyolite, deposited as flows, breccia, and volcaniclastic sediments from numerous local volcanic centers; thin layers of rhyolite tuff are from distant eruptions, some probably in the San Juan Mountains. These volcanic rocks probably record early growth of an upper-crustal batholith. At 25 Ma enormous eruptions of peralkaline rhyolite ash-flow tuff were accompanied by collapse of the roof of the growing batholith to form the Questa Caldera, a volcanic depression at least 14 km across. The ash flows traveled for tens of kilometers from the caldera rims to form a widespread sheet of densely welded tuff; ash also fell back to fill the subsiding caldera depression. Concurrent extension along northwest-trending faults segmented the volcanic edifice and rotated the originally sub-horizontal layers, so that some are nearly vertical. Formation of the caldera was accompanied by further batholith growth, involving intrusion of large plutons of granite, granodiorite, and related rocks into both caldera fill and the adjacent rocks, including both the earlier volcanic rocks and the basement rocks. The large molybdenum deposit along the Red River east of Questa is related to the emplacement of one of these late granitic plutons. Intrusive activity continued into the Miocene.

Development of the Rio Grande Rift beginning at about 15 Ma was accompanied by development of the north-south trending normal faults along the western foot of the Taos Range. The rift is filled with thousands of meters of clastic sediments interleaved with basalt flows, some as young as 3.6 Ma. The bounding faults of the rift cut the Questa Caldera so that the western part of the original structure is now deeply buried beneath the rift fill.

Three-dimensional shaded relief with geology of the Latir volcanic field and adjacent areas.

Three-dimensional shaded relief with
geology of the Latir volcanic field and
adjacent areas, Northern New Mexico

Version History

First posted September 6, 2011

  • Downloads Directory
    Contains: geospatial database, as well as ​chemical-analyses tables 1 and 2 and an explanatory pamphlet. Refer to the Readme and Metadata files for more information.

For additional information contact:
USGS Geology and Environmental Change Science Center
Box 25046, Mail Stop 980
Denver, CO 80225

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Lipman, P.W., and Reed, J.C., Jr., 1989, Geologic map of the Latir volcanic field and adjacent areas, northern New Mexico: U.S. Geological Survey Miscellaneous Investigations Series I–1907, 1 sheet, scale 1:48,000. Digital edition by Brandt, T.R, 2011.

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