Cave Notes

Cave Notes

Material Information

Cave Notes
Series Title:
Caves and Karst: Research in Speleology
Alternate Title:
Caves and karst: Research in speleology
Cave Research Associates
Cave Research Associates
Tumbling Creek Cave Foundation
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Geology ( local )
serial ( sobekcm )


General Note:
Travertine formations in Grand Canyon / P. T. Reilly -- Analytical review / Richard E. Graham. Cave Notes(vols. 1-8) and Caves and Karst: Research in Speleology(vols. 9-15) were published by Cave Research Associates from 1959-1973. In 1975, the Tumbling Creek Cave Foundation compiled complete sets of the journals in three volumes. The Foundation sells hardbound copies of the material to support its activities.
Open Access - Permission by Publisher
Original Location:
Windy City Grotto Collection, 1961-2013
Original Version:
Vol. 3, no. 1 (1961)
General Note:
See Extended description for more information.

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University of South Florida Library
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University of South Florida
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K26-00635 ( USFLDC DOI )
k26.635 ( USFLDC Handle )
13706 ( karstportal - original NodeID )
0008-8625 ( ISSN )

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CAVE NOTES Publication of Cave Research Associates Volume3,No.l January/February, 1961 TRAVERTINE FORMATIONS IN GRAND CANYON by P. T. Reilly Travertine land.scape 16 an aspect of karst, the phenomenon of drainage in soluble rock. In contrast to the typical "nagat tve" karat terrain of solution valleys, caves, and sinks, travertine 1s a llpoeltlve" expression, a result of deposition rather than solution, bringing to canyons and valleys a refinement of waterfall draperies, rirnstone pools, fans, and outdoor stalagmites. Trav~rtine landscape 1s a neglected aspect of karst in the United Statea 1 This 1s especially true of Grand Canyon, Arizona, where the delicate expressions of the travertine formations are overshadowed by ~he grandeur of the more ancient sedimentary strata. Field observations in Grand Canyon reveal that travertine can be the unit that ties a setting together and gives it character. Many of these deposits can be observed while travelling along the Colorado River. Underground water emerging from limestone channels into the open air contains the clues to the cycle of deposition and destruction of travertine. Karst waters, containing calcium and magnesium bicarbonates in solution, breaking forth into the warm, dry air, must evaporate and give up their carbon dioxide with the result that carbonates are precipitated 2 Algae and certain other plants are known to incorporate carbonates into their structure, thereby aiding in travertine deposition. This growth, rather rapid by geologic standards, can be observed from aeason to season, as the encroaching tufa envelopes three-dimensional spaces one after the other, converting them into shaded hollows washed by curtains of water. Columbines, mosses, and ferns adorn these cave-like alcoves, reflecting and diffusing the sunlight. Dead planta, their roots encased in hardened travertine that has sealed off the food routes, preserve the traces of past seasons' growth. When the carbonate-laden waters cease flowing, either by diversion or increasing aridity, the travertine no longer accumulate~ and in time will yield to erosion by weathering and surface drainage, thus declining in its life cycle. Being'soluble in undersaturated water, "negat.ave karst of solutional effects can become superimposed on the travertine along with a corrasional topography. 'l'lith periodically shifting climate and ever shifting drainage and spring patterns, the cycle of travertine deposition and erosion can repeat itself, proceeding through a series of alternating stages. An example of travertine topography occurs at Mile 147.5 (mileages measured downstream from Lee's Ferry) in Grand Canyon. From a small dissected tube in Redwall limestone issues a forty-inch flow, 1


CAVE NOTES Allen B. Kaplan editor CAVE NOTES is a publication of Cave Research Associates, presenting short. articles relating to speleology and karst studies, with reviews and discussion of recent work in this field. Contributions in the form of articles or letters are welcomed. All contributions submitted. should be typed, double-spaced with at least a one-Inch margin. Subscriptions to CAVE NOTES are available for $1.00 per year (6 issues) or on exchange. Mid-year subscriptions receive the earlier numbers of that volume. Correspondence, contributions, and subscriptions to CAVE NOTES should be addressed to CAVE RESEARCH ASSOCIATES, 19l1A Berkeley Way, Berkeley 4, California. which has precipitated a cantelevered apron of travertine roughly fifty feet in height and width. The travertine platform has grown away from the slope and down at the same time. Rounded, convex edges form a series of little spillover dams along its irregular rim. Pendulous, lobate stalactites hang down and envelop shaded cavities and alcoves. A profusion of plant growth occurs along the diverging spring channels, and heaVily encrusted branch stubs protrude from their growing tombs. Mosses and graceful nolinas grow at the edge of the apron just beyond the spatter zone, while equiseta, or horsetails fringe the spring course. This vegetation is typical of many active canyon travertine settings. Miniature equivalents of these aprons occur along spring horizons extending for hundreds of feet in western Grand Canyon. In some places springs have been pirated by other tubes with other outlets, and the sources that built up grea~ banks of travertine are now dry. The deposits thus have ceased to grow,and erosion has set in. ~~ere new ravines have been excavated, the travertines' cross-sections are revealed for stratigraphic study. At some places deposition has been interrupted several times. One can note travertine overlain by detrius, representing an erosional phase, then travertine redeposited, c ement.tng the conglomerate and indicating a rejuvenation of the springs. At Mile 267.6 is a spectacular example of a travertine deposit hollowed out by a drainage channel from the north. The interrupted deposition is revealed as a beautiful polished mosaic of conglomerate cemented by travertine. In the pure travertine, speleothems are represented by draperies, while speleogens occur as wall pockets. CloBe by the alcove and emerging near the base of the travertine bank is a running spring, eVidently the pirating spring. At Mile 116.5, Royal Arch Creek enters from the south. Its small stream originates in a permanent spring below the Redwall about one half'mile from and 1100 feet above the river. From the rim of the Inner Gorge, drape many deposits of what appear to be mud flows, but are actually old travertines of Royal Arch Creek, coated with iron oxides and mud washed down from the Hermit and SUpai forma2


A large spillover dam (gour-) has been built by a spring at Mil. 213. Large chunks of old travertine have fallen into the course of Royal Arch Creek. (Photos by P.T. Reilly) tions far above. Large blocks of travertine have broken loose to cover the slopes to the edge of and even into the river. New travertine aprons are being built up from the older travertine surfaces. The stream enters into the multitudinous openings of the porous tufa and emerges 1n seeps, drippings, and steady flows onto the lower surfaces, where they are adorned by moss, fern, and columbine. One of the least explored tributaries is the Stone 8reek system, joining the river from the east at Mile 138.8. The stream is less than three miles long from its source in a series of springs in the Muav limestone. The stream, bearing carbonates, f'Lcwa along a shelf of Bright Angel shale and thence down a series of waterfalls in the Tapeats and pre-Cambrian strata before joining the river. In two places the stream has built up aprons and then changed to lower courses. In one place the travertine grew laterally into an overhanging ledge thirty feet long'. The creek then returned to its main channel so that only seepage feeds the deposit at present. A short distance down stream from the boxed end of the canyon are several travertine expressions independent of Stone Creek. In 3


the past a stream sent a thin, even flow over the lip of an overhanging rim of sandstone. The carbonate water deposited a coating of travertine plaster (flowatone) up to two inches thick and nearly one hundred feet wide. In time the spring concentrated its flow into three main channels, and the stucco type of deposition ceased. Today the travertine is being stripped from the facade. I surmise that the weathered face was too weak a base for good attachment. There are still smooth areas of unbroken travertine, but irregular patches have broken loose to provide an interesting display. The westernmost of the three rim channels built a bulbous travertine pedestal nearly twenty feet in diameter with the chord face cemented to the steep talus. This channel then ceased to flow leaving the rounded pedestal as a monument to its previous course. The eastern channel on the rim_evidently received a greatly diminished f Low since today there is a slender tongue of travertine nearly one hundred feet long that is barely wet. It extends from a scour trough. The middle rim channel probably gained the water that the flanking channels lost. The scour trough here is the deepest of the. three, and the travertine tongue is wider, longer, and more developed. In two places secondary aprons have thickened the tongue against the wall. The tongue terminates in stalactites, the smaller of which are pointed and curve to the west, indicating a constant local wind condition. The two largest stubs are an estimated twenty inches in diameter and drip steady streams onto a large bullet .. lik,,. stalagmite over twenty feet in diameter and twice as tall. This feature is adorned with moss and ridges of travertine which drape down the sides like wax from a candle. Deer Creek joins the Colorado at Mile 136.3, where I have seen the beautiful Deer Creek Falls plunging directly into the swollen river. During normal flow the river 1s a hundred feet from the falls, which pour into a circular, blue-green pool about thirty feet in diameter and five to eight feet deep. Unlike pools of Havasu Canyon, there is no precipitate visible either in the water or on the rocks. A constant wind accompanies the falling water and blows spray southeastward against large boulders, where travertine deposits are forming. Small shrubs have been turned to stone by the depositing spray. There are two sources of Deer Creek. 'One is Vaughn Spring, which arches gracefully from an anastomotic tUbe exposed by a fault. The other is of about equal volume and rises ~uddenly from the dry wash of the main canyon as does Havasu Creek. Several of the cascades and springs on the Vaughn Spring branch have built up travertine aprons and small gours or terraces. At Mile 213 is a fine example of a spring that has developed a rising spillover dam. When the river flow is at 15,000 cfa, the rim of the basin is nearly six feet above the river, while its base extends beneath the river. The basin bulges into the river with a perimeter about forty feet long. The pool water is tepid, green, and rather salty; the bottom is slimy, but no precipitates are vis4


At Travertine Falls, a long tongue of travertine ends in a series of inverted scallops. (Photo by P.T. Reilly) able. The basin is about ten feet wide and not over two feet deep. Bubbles constantly rise to the surface, and a Blo~ even flow i8 distributed over the dam. This dam seems to survive carrasion by the river, which normally flows past at an estimated speed of two miles per hour. In Fern Glen (Mile 168) a series of seeps along a bedding plane of Redwall limestone has produced long, horizontal deposits of travertine around which we find much vegetation. During recent years the seepage has diminished and the lushness of the vegetation faded. Farther into this canyon a series of springs emerges from the west wall. There is travertine on both sides of the canyon in the form of aprons, gours, and banks. Great blocks of tufa choke the canyon, and erosion has left polished remnants of dissected walls. The travertine glory of Fern Glen seems to belong to the past. At Mile 179.4 Prospect Wash enters from the south along the alignment of the Toroweap Fault, forming the great rapid named Lava Falls. Begblling at the downstream end of its fan and extending nearly a quarter mile is a travertine bench covered with plants. Many springs, ranging in size from trickles to eight-inch Jets, burst from the ragged bench and are known as Warm Springs. Their water is heaVily charged with carbonates, and when boiled, nearly a quarter of the volume becomes a viscid, slimy mass of lime. 5


An area of interest to river travellers is Travertine Falls at Mile 230.5, within a hundred feet of the river. A small stream has built up a fjne example of a travertine tongue or apron extending to the floor o,f a sandy cove and sloping about 65¡. The tongue ends in a series of inverted scallops rising from the level of the sand on the east side to about five feet above on the west) indicating that the tongue is older along its east side and is in the process of diverting its flow to the lower side. In the spatter zone is an area approximately four by fifteen feet containing unusual stalagmites. These are little cones ranging up to four inches in height) testifying to the consistancy of the spatter pattern. Some appear truncated at about three-fourths of the oone height. Another high waterfall this tributary. The upper also deposits travertine. rl~ of the inner gorge is occurs one mile closer to the source of falls pours over a high granite ledge and The pre-Cambrian talus which litters the spotted with numerous seeps and springs. One and a he.Lf miles upstream from ,Travertine Falls La Travertine Canyon. In its final descent to the river its stream splashes over gneiss, where a massive bank of old travertine is being eroded. The source of the stream is below the limestones, and its water is not depositing today. Resolution effects in the travertine include enlargement of holes to form tunnels with many side pocket s and pot .... holes. The travertine deposits along the well-traveled trails of Havasu Canyon are well known and will not be described here. Havasu's rival for travertine dam formation) however, is less known; it is the Little Colorado Canyon) joining the river at ~lle 61.4. The clear water of the 1,'Jhite Nourrt.a Ln a disappears far upstream, and many miles of dry wash intervene before the canyon brings forth the carbonate springs that send a sky-blue stream thirteen miles to the main river. Here there are many dams witlJ pools generally mucb larger than those of Havasu Canyon. Another important difference 1s that the water is salty. This factor, plus the larger drainage basin resulting in more frequent flooding, has much to do with the laok of plant growth close to the stream. A white precipitate oovers the rocks and pool bottoms, becoming several inches deep in the large lagoon at the mouth. There are Canyon, and by a search. thor in over Big Canyon. many other plaoes where travertine is found in Grand undoubtedly, additional deposits could be made kno~m These are the main expressions enoountered by the aua decade of joyous wandering in the environment of the References: 1. cr Cave Notes, vot 2, #1, p. 1. Jan./Feb. 1960. 2. EMIG, W.H. Travertine depo s i t a of Oklahoma. Okla. Geol. Survey Bull., #29, 1917. 6


ANALYTICAL REVIEW MARTIN, PAUL S BRUNO E. SABELS, & DIGK SHUTLER, Jr. Rampart Cave coprollte and ecology of the Shasta Ground Sloth. American Journal of Science, vo L, 259, p. 102-127. 1961. The widespread extinctions of large vertebrates throughout the world at the end of the Pleistocene has been the subject of much debate and controversy. This paper discusses several hypotheses which have been advanced to explain these extinctions, and provides several valuable clues to this mystery based on a study of the sloth, Nothrotherlum ahsatenae, from Rampart Cave. Rampart Cave 1s situated in Grand Canyon along the Colorado River in Arizona. It has yielded a noteworthy series of Pleistocene fOBSils and ground sloth dung. All the earlier work done in this cave 1s reviewed in this paper. The new contributions consist of radiocarbon dating by Shutler, pollen analysis by Martin, trace~ element studies by Sabela, and a critique of the various extinction theories. A sixty-inch dung profile collected inside the cave indicates that the sloth must have inhabited the cave for at least 25,000 yeara. The aurface coprolite is dated on the order of 10,000 years, the 18-inch level at 12,000 years, and the 54-inch depth at 35,000 years. The pollen samples were well preserved, and, although the content varied widely at each level, it is proposed that seasonal variation and the feeding habits of the animals might account for this. From the 18 to the 48-inch level an increase in montane trees and shrubs lndicatea a cooler or wetter climate with, Upper Sonoran flora 2000 to 4000 feet below ita present elevation. Trace~element content was correlated with fossil and pollen occurrence. It was found ~hat the abundance of manganeae increased during a period of higher moisture (Wisconain glacial age) auggesting that this mineral may be useful as an index of climatic change, and that a threefold sequence from warm-dry to cool-moist to warm-dry occurred during the deposition of the sediments in Rampart Cave. At all levels copper was abundant and cobalt rare, but no evidence was found that deficiencies in these caused ground sloth extinction, aa was earlier proposed. A study was made of the biological requirements of recent sloth~ and the fossil record was examined for clues to the habits of this group in an effort to account for the high extinction rate of the l~rge gravigrade speciea at the end of the Pleistocene. The distribution of the Shasta ground sloth was mapped. A list of plants comprising the diet of this species was compiled from coprolite collected from Aden Crater, New Mexico; Gypsum Cave, Nevada; and Rampart Cave, Arizona. The radiocarbon dates for the latter two sites were compared with those from two caves in Chile. Herbivore and rodent dung balls and fecal pellets were also collected in Rampart Cave. Several good climate-indicating fossils were also found, auch as Marmota and Oreamnoa which are thought to be boreo-montane in distribution, found in zones of cooler and wetter conditions; and below these, the chuckwalla, Sauromalus, indicating an initial phase of cave filling during a warm and dry period. 7


Great care has been taken to integrate a large volume of materi~ al into this study. Summarized below are some of the conclusions reached and Borne other relevant work recently pUblished in this country. Drastic climatic changes accompanied by the advance and retreat of glacial fields i8 the cause most commonly suggested for the extinction of large Pleistocene mammals, but this does not explain why many species in tropical and southern hemisphere regions disappeared; also it has been demonstrated that the sloth was still extant after the retreat of the last glacier. A second explanation, competition, cannot apply in the case of Nothrotherium shastense, since no large desert herbivore has appeared to fill its ecologic niche, and the habitat of the sloth still remains open . The interesting evidence found by Salmi from analysis of sloth coprolite (SALMI, M. Additional information on the findings in the Mylodon cave at Ultima Esperanza. Acta Geographies, vol. 14) p. 314-333. 1955.) that certain trace elements may have become rare during late Pleistocene was not supported by the studies in Rampart Cave. Also, B~udies based on domestic animals show that they are capable of supplementing their diets in such a way that they can overcome dietary deficiencies of certain trace elements. Thus, the writers conclUde that on the basis of biological evidence there is no reason why the sloth should not have survived into his~ toric times. Perhaps, these slow-moving beasts became easy prey to post glacial man. Two additional studies from the Florida area have appeared re~ cently which have a bearing on this problem. Of thirty amphibians and reptiles found in s Pleistocene deposit (HOlMAN, ALLAN J. Amphibians and reptiles from the Pleistocene (Illinoian) of Williston, Florida. Copeia, #2, p. 96-102. 1959.) only one is extinct, and all the other species can be found in the area today. Since these species are considered good climatic indicators, climate cannot be blamed fOr the extinction of six birds and five mammals found in the same deposit. Holman suggests man as the cause. Another quite different approach is suggested by Olsen (OLSEN, STANLEY J. Additional remains from Florida's Pleistocene Vampire. Journal of Mammalo g 1 vol. 41, #4, p. 458-461. 1960.) who found the vampire in as soc ation with large, extinct Pleistocene mammals including the sloth. He proposes that this vampire might have spread a fatal disease among these animals as the vampires of the tropics do among the domestic animals of today. Certainly the cause of the ground sloth's extinction is not yet fully understood, but this comprehensive stUdy of a single site 1s a valuable step towards that understanding. Since most of the evidence from this and related studies is derived from cave sedimants) it points up the importance of protecting cave sites. Further work should further emphasize the value of speleology in relation to the study of life on this planet. Richard E. Graham, C.R.A. 8

Travertine formations in Grand Canyon / P. T. Reilly --
Analytical review / Richard E. Graham.
Cave Notes(vols. 1-8) and
Caves and Karst: Research in Speleology(vols. 9-15)
were published by Cave Research Associates from 1959-1973. In
1975, the Tumbling Creek Cave Foundation compiled complete
sets of the journals in three volumes. The Foundation sells
hardbound copies of the material to support its


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