Large landslides, composed of megabreccia, interbedded in Miocene basin deposits, southeastern Arizona

Professional Paper 1008




The landslides in the Kearny and El Capitan Mountain quadrangles, Pinal and Gila Counties, Ariz., are tabular or lens like masses of megabreccia enclosed in Miocene basin deposits. The megabreccias within individual slide blocks are composed of pervasively brecciated Precambrian and younger formations that remain in normal stratigraphic sequence, indicating that each landslide moved as a fairly coherent mass. The megabreccias consist of fresh, mostly angular rock fragments in a comminuted matrix of the same composition as the fragments. The matrix ranges in amount from sparse to abundant. Where the matrix is sparse, the fragments fit tightly with little or no rotation. Locally fragments are rotated but not moved far; most units within a slide block are lithologically homogeneous. The Kearny landslides are conformably interbedded in steeply east-dipping playa and alluvial deposits. They form map units from a few tens of meters to nearly 4 km long and from less than 1 to 270 m wide. Narrow ridges expose sections through the landslides at about right angles to the direction of movement. The upper (proximal) ends have been eroded; the lower (distal) ends are buried. The El Capitan landslide dips very gently southward. Although partly dissected during erosion of the enclosing alluvial and lakebed deposits, its approximate original outline is still preserved. It forms a thin sheet, 5-15 m thick and at least 3.8 km long; the maximum outcrop width, near its distal end, is about 1.5 km. The Kearny landslides show little evidence of having exerted differential pressure on the underlying soft playa and alluvial deposits, and the contacts with the underlying sediments have little relief. The distal end of the El Capitan landslide, on the other hand, has considerable relief. As the landslide came to an abrupt stop, the end plowed into the underlying sediments, compressing them into fol9.s and forming sandstone dikes. The source of the El Capitan landslide is a well-defined amphitheater on the south side of El Capitan Mountain 1,500 to more than 3,000 m above and 1.5-3 km north of the proximal end of the landslide. The long distance traveled on a very gentle slope indicates that the El Capitan landslide had a very low coefficient of friction, similar to some modern and prehistoric avalanches. According to Shreve, they may have traveled on a thin lubricating layer of compressed air. The coefficient of friction of the Kearny landslides cannot be determined. However, the nonturbulent character of both the Kearny and El Capitan landslides indicates that they slid rather than flowed.

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Large landslides, composed of megabreccia, interbedded in Miocene basin deposits, southeastern Arizona
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Professional Paper
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U.S. Govt. Print. Off.,
25 p.