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Geology of the National Parks - Death Valley


Rock Formations Exposed in the Death Valley Area

SOURCE: US Geological Survey Professional Paper 494
Hunt, C.B., and Mabey, D.R., 1966, General Geology of Death Valley, California



Formation Lithology and thickness Characteristic fossils



  Fan gravel; silt and salt on floor of playa, less than 100 feet thick. None


  Fan gravel; silt and salt buried under floor of playa; perhaps 2,000 feet thick.  
    Funeral fanglomerate Cemented fan gravel with interbedded basaltic lavas, gravels cut by veins of calcite (Mexican onyx); perhaps 1000 feet thick. Diatoms, pollen.



Furnace Creek Formation Cemented gravel, silty and saliferous playa deposits; various salts, especially borates, more than 5,000 feet thick. Scarce.


Artist Drive Formation Cemented gravel; playa deposits, much volcanic debris, perhaps 5,000 feet thick. Scarce.


Titus Canyon Formation Cemented gravel; mostly stream deposits; 3,000 feet thick. Vertebrates, titanotheres, etc.

Eocene and Paleocene

  Granitic intrusions and volcanics, not known to be represented by sedimentary deposits.  

Cretaceous and Jurassic

  Not represented, area was being eroded.    


  Butte Valley Formation of Johnson (1957) Exposed in Butte Valley 1 mile south of this area; 8,000 feet of metasediments and volcanics. Ammonites, smooth-shelled brachiopods, belemnites, and hexacorals.

Pennsylvanian and Permian

Formations at east foot of Tucki Mountain Conglomerate, limestone, and some shale. Conglomerate contains cobbles of limestone of Mississippian, Pennsylvanian, and Permian age. Limestone and shale contain spherical chert nodules. Abundant fusulinids. Thickness uncertain on account of faulting; estimate 3,000 feet +, top eroded. Beds with fusulinids, especially Fusulinella


Mississippian and Pennsylvanian

Rest Spring Shale Mostly shale, some limestone, abundant spherical chert nodules. Thickness uncertain because of faulting; estimate 750 feet. None.


Tin Mountain Limestone and younger limestone Mapped as 1 unit. Tin Mountain Limestone 1000 feet thick, is black with thin-bedded lower member and thick-bedded upper member. Unnamed limestone formation, 725 feet thick, consists of interbedded chert and limestone in thin beds and in about equal proportions. Mixed brachiopods, corals, and crinoid stems. Syringopora (open-spaced colonies) Caninia cf. C. cornicula .


Middle and Upper Devonian

Lost Burro Formation Limestone in light and dark beds 1-10 feet thick give striped effect on mountainsides. Two quartzite beds, each about 3 feet thick, near base, numerous sandstone beds 8001 000 feet above base. Top 200 feet is well-bedded limestone and quartzite. Total thickness uncertain because of faulting; estimated 2,000 feet. Brachiopods abundant, especially Spirifer , Cyrtospirifer , Productilla , Carmarotoechia , Atrypa . Stromatoporoids. Syringopora (closely spaced colonies).

Silurian and Devonian

Silurian and Lower Devonian

Hidden Valley Dolomite Thick-bedded, fine-grained, and even-grained dolomite, mostly light color. Thickness 300-1,400 feet. Crinoid stems abundant, Including large types. Favosites .


Upper Ordovician

Ely Springs Dolomite Massive black dolomite, 400-800 feet thick. Streptelasmatid corals: Grewingkia , Bighornia . Brachiopods .

Middle and Upper (?) Ordovician

Eureka Quartzite Massive quartzite, with thin-bedded quartzite at base and top, 350 feet thick. None

Lower and Middle Ordovician

Pogonip Group Dolomite, with some limestone, at base, shale unit in middle, massive dolomite at top. Thickness, 1,500 feet. Abundant large gastropods in massive dolomite at top: Palliseria and Maclurites , associated with Receptaculites . In lower beds: Protopliomerops , Kirkella , Orthid brachiopods.


Upper Cambrian

Nopah Formation Highly fossiliferous shale member 100 feet thick at base, upper 1 200 feet is dolomite in thick alternating black and light hands about 100 feet thick. Total thickness of formation 1,200-1,500 feet. In upper part, gastropods. In basal 100 feet, trilobite trash beds containing Elburgis, Pseudagnostus , Horriagnostris , Elvinia , Apsotreta .

Middle and Upper Cambrian

Bonanza King Formation Mostly thick-bedded arid massive dark-colored dolomite, thin-bedded limestone member 500 feet thick 1 000 feet below top of formation, 2 brown-weathering shaIy units, upper one fossiliferous, about 200 arid 500 feet, respectively, below thin-bedded member. Total thickness Uncertain because of faulting; estimated about 3,000 feet in Panamint Range, 2,000 feet in Funeral Mountains. The only fossiliferous bed is shale below limestone member neat middle of formation. This shale contains linguloid brachiopods and trilobite trash beds with fragments of " Ehmaniella ."

Lower and Middle Cambrian

Carrara Formation An alternation of shaly and silty members with limestone members transitional between underlying clastic formations and overlying carbonate ones. Thickness about 1 000 feet but variable because of shearing. Numerous trilobite trash beds in lower part yield fragments of olenellid trilobites.

Lower Cambrian

Zabriskie Quartzite Quartzite, mostly massive arid granulated due to shearing, locally it) beds 6 inches to 2 feet thick ' trot much cross bedded. Thickness more than 150 feet, variable because of shearing. No fossils.

Lower Cambrian

Wood Canyon Formation Basal unit is well-bedded quartzite above 1,650 feet thick ' shaly Unit above this 520 feet thick contains lowest olenellids in section; top unit of dolomite and quartzite 400 feet thick. A few scattered olenellid trilobites and archaeocyathids in upper part of formation. Scolithus ? tubes.
    Stirling Quartzite Well-bedded quartzite in beds 1-5 feet thick comprising thick members of quartzite 700-800 feet thick separated by 500 feet of purple shale, crossbedding conspicuous in quartzite. Maximum thickness about 2,000 feet. None.
    Johnnie Formation Mostly shale, in part olive brown, in part purple. Basal member 400 feet thick is interbedded dolomite arid quartzite with pebble conglomerate. Locally, fair dolomite near middle arid at top. Thickness more than 4,000 feet. None.


  Noonday Dolomite In southern Panamint Range, dolomite in Indistinct beds; lower part cream colored, upper part gray. Thickness 800 feet. Farther north, where mapped as Noonday(?) Dolomite, contains much limestone, tan and white, and some limestone conglomerate. Thickness about 1000 feet. Scolithus ? tubes.
    Kingston Peak(?) Formation Mostly conglomerate, quartzite, and shale; some limestone arid dolomite near middle. At least 3,000 feet thick. Although tentatively assigned to Kingston Peak Formation, similar rocks along west side of Panamint Range have been identified as Kingston Peak. None.
    Beck Spring Dolomite Not mapped; outcrops are to the west. Blue-gray cherry dolomite, thickness estimated about 500 feet Identification uncertain. None.

Pahrump Series

Crystal Spring Formation Recognized only in Galena Canyon and south. Total thickness about 2,000 feet. Consists of basal conglomerate overlain by quartzite that grades upward into purple shale arid thinly bedded dolomite, upper part, thick bedded dolomite, diabase, and chert. Talc deposits where diabase intrudes dolomite. None.
    Rocks of the crystalline basement Metasedimentary rocks with granitic intrusions. None.
*A rock formation is a body of rock of considerable extent with distinctive characteristics that allow geologists to map, describe, and name it.
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