Geomorphology, stratigraphy, and luminscence age of the Mescalero Sands, southeastern New Mexico
— Stephen A. Hall and Ronald J. Goble


The Mescalero sand sheet consists of two eolian sand members, a lower eolian sand unit with an OSL age of 90 to 75 ka, correlating with oxygen isotope stage 5A, and an upper eolian sand unit with an OSL age of 9 to 5 ka, deposited during the early Holocene. The sand sheet overlies the calcic Mescalero paleosol. It has a stage II-III carbonate morphology and may have formed before and during the Sangamonian and early Eowisconsinan. After deposition of the lower eolian sand unit, the argillic Berino paleosol developed on the stable sand sheet. The Berino paleosol is a non-calcic, clayey soil that formed during the Wisconsinan, a period of regionally wetter climate and sagebrush grassland vegetation. Also during the Wisconsinan, large springs and cienegas formed extensive fossiliferous deposits throughout the area of the sand sheet, especially adjacent the Ogallala escarpment where a higher glacial-age water table fed large springs. The early Holocene eolian sand unit overlies the spring deposits. The sand sheet was in a state of quasi-stability during the past 5000 yrs. The Loco Hills soil, a thin A horizon without B horizon development, formed throughout the area on all substrates: lower and upper eolian sand, alluvium, and colluvium. The radiocarbon age of the A horizon soil is younger than 500 yrs BP; the soil formed during a brief period of slightly moist climate and a stable desert shrub grassland vegetation. Within the past 120 yrs since American settlement of the area, Torrey mesquite expanded its range onto the sand sheet, and coppice dunes formed around the mesquite, especially in areas where the lower eolian sand is exposed at the surface. Parabolic dunes formed recently in areas of thicker upper eolian sand and are dominated by a dense cover of shinnery oak shrubs. The coppice and parabolic dunes overlie the Loco Hills soil. Transverse dunes occur in small patches of presently active eolian sand.

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Recommended Citation:

  1. Hall, Stephen A.; Goble, Ronald J., 2006, Geomorphology, stratigraphy, and luminscence age of the Mescalero Sands, southeastern New Mexico, in: Caves and karst of southeastern New Mexico, Land, Lewis; Lueth, Virgil W.; Raatz, William; Boston, Penny; Love, David L., New Mexico Geological Society, Guidebook, 57th Field Conference, pp. 297-310.

[see guidebook]