GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 114-11
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


DESPAIN, Joel, National Cave and Karst Research Institute, 400-1 Cascades Avenue, Carlsbad, NM 88220 and KAMBESIS, Patricia N., Center for Human Geoenvironmental Studies, Western Kentucky University, 1906 College Heights Blvd, Department of Geography & Geology, Bowling Green, KY 42127

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California are known for their fluvial cave systems, including Lilburn Cave, the longest in the state at 35 km. Caves here form in vertically-bedded Mesozoic marble that outcrops with other metamorphosed marine rocks in small roof pendants surrounded by plutonic rocks. A few of the 250 caves found in the parks do not contain the physical features typical of California fluvial speleogenesis making their origin enigmatic. These include Empire, Palmer, Paradise and Ursa Minor caves. Typical features of fluvial speleogenesis observed in other caves but not observed in the enigmatic caves include active streams, granitic sediments, vadose canyon development and scallops on bedrock walls and floors. Based on cave surveys, geologic mapping, mineralogical assessment, morphometric analysis and observations we find that the enigmatic caves do contain features such as quartz crystals up to 0.5 m in length, gypsum deposits, phreatic ceiling and wall features such as cupolas, cusps and sudden passage terminations, and a lack of fluvial sediments of any kind. The enigmatic caves exhibit features consistent with sulfuric acid speleogeneis, high temperature fluids and other unusual hydrologic conditions. The diversity of potential processes that result in these features indicate that speleogenesis in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is more complex than originally thought.