Reconnaissance of alluvial fans as potential sources of gravel aggregate, Santa Cruz River valley, Southeast Arizona

Open-File Report 2002-314




This investigation was conducted to provide information on the aggregate potential of alluvial fan sediments in the Santa Cruz River valley. Pebble lithology, roundness, and particle size were determined in the field, and structures and textures of alluvial fan sediments were photographed and described. Additional measurements of particle size on digital photographs were made on a computer screen. Digital elevation models were acquired and compiled for viewing the areal extent of selected fans.

Alluvial fan gravel in the Santa Cruz River valley reflects the lithology of its source. Gravel derived from granitic and gneissic terrane of the Tortolita, Santa Catalina, and Rincon Mountains weathers to grus and is generally inferior for use as aggregate. Gravel derived from the Tucson, Sierrita, and Tumacacori Mountains is composed mostly of angular particles of volcanic rock, much of it felsic in composition. This angular volcanic gravel should be suitable for use in asphalt but may require treatment for alkali-silica reaction prior to use in concrete. Gravel derived from the Santa Rita Mountains is of mixed plutonic (mostly granitic rocks), volcanic (mostly felsic rocks), and sedimentary (sandstone and carbonate rock) composition. The sedimentary component tends to make gravel derived from the Santa Rita Mountains slightly more rounded than other fan gravel.

The coarsest (pebble, cobble, and boulder) gravel is found near the heads (proximal part) of alluvial fans. At the foot (distal part) of alluvial fans, most gravel is pebble-sized and interbedded with sand and silt. Some of the coarsest gravel was observed near the head of the Madera Canyon, Montosa Canyon, and Esperanza Wash fans. The large Cienega Creek fan, located immediately south and southeast of Tucson, consists entirely of distal-fan pebble gravel, sand, and silt.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Reconnaissance of alluvial fans as potential sources of gravel aggregate, Santa Cruz River valley, Southeast Arizona
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center
iv, 44 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Santa Cruz River valley