2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 16
Presentation Time: 4:24 PM


CROSSEY, Laura J.1, KARLSTROM, Karl E.2, PATCHETT, P. Jonathan3, HILTON, David4, FISCHER, Tobias5, SHARP, Warren6, PEDERSON, Joel7, SCHMIDT, Dwight L.8, ANTWEILER, Ronald C.9 and REYNOLDS, Amanda C.3, (1)Dept. of Earth & Planetary Sciences, Univ. of New Mexico, Northrop Hall, Albuquerque, NM 87131, (2)Department of Earth and Planetary Science, Univ of New Mexico, Northrop Hall, Albuquerque, NM 87131, (3)Department of Geosciences, Univ of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, (4)Geosciences Research Div, Scripps Inst. of Oceanography, Univ. of Calif. San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, (5)Earth & Planetary Sciences, Univ. of New Mexico, Northrop Hall, Albuquerque, NM 87131, (6)Berkeley Geochronology Center, 2455 Ridge Rd, Berkeley, CA 94709, (7)Dept. of Geology, Utah State Univ, 4505 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322, (8)US Geol Survey, PO Box 25046, Denver, CO 80225-0046, (9)U.S. Geological Survey, 3215 Marine St, Suite E-127, Boulder, CO 80303, lcrossey@unm.edu

The spectacular landscape at Grand Canyon provides a unique view of a deeply dissected aquifer system. Travertines and associated active springs provide key data for understanding the modern hydrology, as well as a record for understanding how this system has evolved and interacted with Quaternary canyon incision. Both the modern and ancient travertine-depositing springs, and the Colorado River itself, record a “tale of two waters”: a mixing of deeply-circulated waters rising along faults with surface- and groundwaters of the plateau. Travertine occurs where major spring-producing horizons (such as the Muav Limestone-Bright Angel Shale contact) intersect Laramide and Precambrian basement-penetrating faults.  We suggest on the basis of spring water chemistry and gas analysis that  large volumes of travertine are produced from deep saline waters that are rich in CO2 and higher in 87Sr/86Sr than waters derived from the plateau aquifers. Spring waters in travertine-forming localities record high He/Ar and He/N2, and 3He/4He ratios of 0.15 Ra suggesting contributions of mantle-derived He and CO2 potentially from nearby coeval volcanic fields. 87Sr/86Sr in central Grand Canyon springs ranges from 0.710 to 0.728 and we hypothesize that radiogenic Sr contributed by deeply-circulated waters such as these account for previously observed increases in Colorado River 87Sr/86Sr between Lee’s Ferry and Lake Mead.  We also propose that the radiogenic Hualapai Limestone (~5 Ma) in the Grand Wash trough was formed by spring waters similar to those seen in today’s travertine localities (87Sr/86Sr of Grand Canyon travertine is comparable to values reported for the Hualapai Ls.). Rapid travertine deposition in selected localities has also caused pervasive cementation and preservation of Quaternary terrace sequences and this allows direct U-series dating of aggradation events and calculation of incision rates.  Dating so far suggests that major pulses of travertine accumulation occurred over the last 350 ka, and seem to correspond with glacial events/ regional wetness (in agreement with previous workers). The travertine record, combined with spring water chemistry and geochemical analysis will provide a quantitative understanding of both the Quaternary history and evolving hydrologic system of the region.