Subsurface Paleozoic stratigraphy of the northeastern New Mexico basin and arch complex
J. Wayland Roberts, J. J. Barnes, and H. J. Wacker


The basin and arch complex of northeastern New Mexico and extreme northwestern Texas contains the Raton-Las Vegas, Tucumcari, Palo Duro and Dalhart Basins, and the Sierra Grande and Bravo Dome arches (Fig. 1). During Pennsylvanian and Permian time detrital sediments were shed from the major positive feature, the Sierra Grande uplift, which trends northeast-southwest in the central part of the area. The Bravo Dome appears to be a southeast plunging salient of the Sierra Grande uplift and may represent the extreme northwestern extension of the buried Amarillo Mountain Range. Salients of the Sierra Grande uplift separate the basins from one another. The maximum sedimentary column penetrated in the area occurs in the Palo Duro (Plainview) Basin where thicknesses of 10,000 ft have been encountered. Subsurface sedimentary strata include rocks of Ordovician, Mississippian, Pennsylvanian, Permian, Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous age (Fig. 2). This paper is restricted to discussions of Paleozoic rocks. The recognized major facies types in these rocks include continental-fluvial, marginal marine, marine-open shelf and deep water marine.
During the early Paleozoic (pre-Pennsylvanian), there was no strong positive structure to shed clastic sediments into the area. Lower Paleozoic (Ordovician and Mississippian) sedimentary environments were dominantly marine-open shelf. Regional unconformities left the Ordovician carbonates on Precambrian rocks and, Mississippian carbonates and shales on Ordovician strata in the Tucumcari, Dalhart, and Raton-Las Vegas Basins. An abrupt shift in sedimentary environment, caused by uplifting of the Sierra Grande Arch during Pennsylvanian time, resulted in preservation of a thick continental and marginal marine sedimentary sequence in upper Pennsylvanian and Permian strata. The Tucumcari, Palo Duro and Dalhart basins were strong negative features in the early stages of this cycle. Clastic deposition continued until Late Permian time when a widespread marine incursion advanced from the south covering most of the area with a veneer of marine carbonates. The regressive cycle which followed this transgression created many of the stratigraphic traps in the San Andres formation south of the study area in New Mexico and West Texas. Methane and carbon dioxide gas offer the greatest potential for economic development in northeast New Mexico; however, many shows of both oil and gas have been encountered throughout the Paleozoic sequence. To date there is no commercial hydrocarbon production, placing the area in a juvenile stage of oil and gas exploration.


  1. Roberts, J. Wayland; Barnes, J. J.; Wacker, H. J., 1976, Subsurface Paleozoic stratigraphy of the northeastern New Mexico basin and arch complex, in: Vermejo Park, Ewing, Rodney C.; Kues, Barry S., New Mexico Geological Society, Guidebook, 27th Field Conference, pp. 141-152.

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