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Sloping fan travertine, Belen, New Mexico, USA

Cook, Megan, Chafetz, Henry S.
Sedimentary geology 2017 v.352 pp. 30-44
foams, hills, limestone, sand, shrubs, terraces, Brazil, New Mexico
Pliocene to Quaternary age travertines are very well-exposed in quarries near Belen, New Mexico, U.S.A., on the western edge of the Rio Grande Rift system. A series of hillside springs produced travertine tongues tens of meters thick and hundreds of meters long. The accumulations represent deposits from individual springs as well as the amalgamation of deposits. The overall architecture is predominantly composed of sloping fans with a smaller component of terrace mounds. The sloping fan deposits commonly have a dip of <10°, however, they range from horizontal to near vertical. Individual strata display significant changes in depositional dip, beds pinch and swell, and some are completely truncated. Centimeter to meter scale terrace mounds exhibit the common stair-step morphology. As a consequence of vertical accretion in the pools, terrace mounds morphed into sloping fans. The travertine is composed of a variety of commonly reported constituents, i.e., centimeter thick laminae of bacterial shrubs and oncoids, foam rock, sheets and rafts, and finely crystalline crusts that occur throughout the sloping fan and terrace mound accumulations. Sheets and rafts formed as precipitates in pools on the surfaces of the fans and terraces as well as spelean deposits on the water surfaces of pools within cavities in the overall accumulation. Thus, the spelean rafts provide valuable indicators of original horizontality in the sloping fan strata. In addition, intraformational breccias, composed of locally torn-up travertine intraclastic boulders and deposited in with other travertine, and extraformational breccias, composed of torn-up travertine intraclasts mixed with siliciclastic fines and sand and Paleozoic limestone clasts transported downslope from higher on the hillside, are a common constituent in the sloping fan accumulation. The Belen travertines provide a very well-exposed example of sloping fan travertines and may provide relevant data with regard to the subsurface Aptian Pre-Salt deposits, offshore Brazil.