A stratigraphic history of the Tularosa Basin area, south-central New Mexico
William D. Raatz


Precambrian through Holocene strata are exposed in tilted fault blocks surrounding the modern Tularosa Basin. Precambrian crystalline and metasedimentary rocks are unconformably overlain by a generally transgressive Late Cambrian?/Early Ordovician through Mississippian series of sandstones, carbonates, and shales deposited on the south-dipping Tobosa shelf. During Late Mississippian to Early Pennsylvanian time, Ancestral Rocky Mountain tectonism created the Pedemal uplift and conjugate Orogrande basin. Clastics and carbonates were deposited across the area in cyclic beds, recording high frequency, high amplitude glacio-eustatic sea level fluctuations modified by structural and climatic events. Late Pennsylvanian and Early Permian strata record renewed uplift of the Pedernal and rapid basin subsidence, resulting in the deposition of large volumes of elastic redbeds and carbonates that largely filled the basin and eliminated most topography. Middle Permian transgressive carbonates and evaporites filled remnant topography and record a return to shallow-marine, stable shelf environments. Minor Triassic(?) terrestrial elastics are preserved. Cretaceous units were deposited in an early southern Tethyan suite and a later northern suite connected with the Western Interior Seaway. From Late Cretaceous through Eocene time, the Laramide orogeny reorganized basin geometries, followed by Oligocene-mid Miocene and late Miocene-Holocene crustal extension and volcanism of the Rio Grande rift. The tectonics that created the rift also formed the Basin and Range extensional topography observed today in the Tularosa Basin. Tertiary through Holocene strata include terrestrial elastics derived from uplifts, playa lake deposits, volcanics, and the White Sands gypsum dunes.


  1. Raatz, William D., 2002, A stratigraphic history of the Tularosa Basin area, south-central New Mexico, in: Geology of White Sands, Lueth, Virgil W.; Giles, Katherine A.; Lucas, Spencer G.; Kues, Barry S.; Myers, Robert; Ulmer, Scholle, Dana S., New Mexico Geological Society, Guidebook, 53rd Field Conference, pp. 141-157.

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