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Scientific Investigations Map 3140

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. National Park Service

Geologic Map of the Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park, Texas

By Robert G. Bohannon


Thumbnail of and link to SIM 3140 Pamphlet PDF (65.0 MB) The Chisos Mountains form some of the highest ground in Texas, second only to Guadalupe Peak near the New Mexico border. The northern half of the range is mostly above 5,500 feet with Emory Peak the high point at 7,825 feet. The mountains are centrally located in Big Bend National Park between Panther Junction and Punta de la Sierra.

Big Bend National Park lies near the diffuse border between the Great Plains Province to the northeast and the Sonoran section of the Basin-and-Range structural province to the west and southwest. These geologically unique regions are distinguished from one another by large differences in their landscape and by the amount and style of internal structural deformation. The Great Plains Province is characterized by flat-lying or gently dipping sedimentary strata, low topographic relief, shallow stream valleys, and by a general lack of faulting. Very little active deposition is occurring on the plains, except in the bottoms of active stream valleys. In southwestern Texas the plains stand at average elevations of 2,000 to 3,300 feet and slope gently east toward the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The Great Plains have remained relatively unchanged for the last 65 million years, except that they have been uplifted to their present height from lower elevations probably in the last 5 million years. The Basin-and-Range province is characterized by linear parallel mountain ranges, deep sediment-filled valleys, and high structural and topographic relief. The eastern part of the province is at a slightly higher average elevation than the plains. The province is known for its complex patterns of Cenozoic faulting. Today it bears little resemblance to the way it was during the Paleocene when the entire Trans-Pecos region was a simple lowland that was near or slightly below sea level.

First posted February 28, 2011

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:

Bohannon, R.G., 2011, Geologic map of the Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park, Texas: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3140, 1 sheet, scale 1:50,000, pamphlet, 37 p.


Acknowledgments, Mapping Sources, and Methods
Geologic Setting
Chisos Mountains Geology
Seaway Deposits
Laramide Orogeny
Chisos Episode—Volcanic and Sedimentary Influx
Fresno Creek-Facies Group
Smoky Creek-Facies Group
Eruptive and Intrusive Episodes
Basin-and-Range Extension
Denudational Episode
Description of Map Units

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