An Overview of the Tucumcari Basin

Overview of the Region’s Geology
Ron Broadhead gave this overview of the region’s geology:

The Tucumcari, Estancia, Carrizozo and Vaughn basins are all in northeast and central New Mexico and all share a similar geology.

The basins began to form during the Early Pennsylvanian and saw continued tectonic development through the Early Permian. They are tectonic elements of the southern ancestral Rocky Mountains and were formed along the flanks of the late Paleozoic Sierra Grande and Pedernal uplifts in a strike-slip setting.

During the late Paleozoic, Precambrian cores of these uplifts were exposed and were the source of sediments for surrounding basins. However, along the boundaries of adjoining uplifts, the basins have component elevator basins.

Image Caption

Pennsylvanian TOC, New Mexico. Maps courtesy of Ron Broadhead,

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Ron Broadhead gave this overview of the region’s geology:

The Tucumcari, Estancia, Carrizozo and Vaughn basins are all in northeast and central New Mexico and all share a similar geology.

The basins began to form during the Early Pennsylvanian and saw continued tectonic development through the Early Permian. They are tectonic elements of the southern ancestral Rocky Mountains and were formed along the flanks of the late Paleozoic Sierra Grande and Pedernal uplifts in a strike-slip setting.

During the late Paleozoic, Precambrian cores of these uplifts were exposed and were the source of sediments for surrounding basins. However, along the boundaries of adjoining uplifts, the basins have component elevator basins.

The elevator basins are long, narrow and structurally deep troughs bounded by high-angle faults. They are either elongated parallel to the axes of the adjoining uplifts and separate the uplifts from areas of shelf deposition, or they cut into the flanks of these uplifts.

Bounding faults of Early Pennsylvanian to Early Permian age have vertical offsets that can exceed 5,000 feet, while basin width can be five to 15 miles and basin length can range from 20 to 40 miles.

The Tucumcari covers 5,000 square miles. To the north and northwest the Sierra Grande uplift separates it from the Pecos shelf and Las Vegas Basin, and to the northeast the Bravo dome separates the basin from the Dalhart Basin of Texas and Oklahoma. On the east, the Frio uplift separates the Tucumcari from the Palo Duro Basin, and to the south the Sin Nombre arch separates it from the Permian Basin’s northwest shelf. To the west, the San Ignacio platform separates it from the Vaughn Basin.

The Tucumcari’s deepest known parts are in the elevator basins along its northern margin in Guadalupe, San Miguel and Quay counties. While depth to the Precambrian may exceed 12,000 feet in these elevator basins, the Precambrian is found at less than 7,000 feet in shelf areas. On uplifted areas to the north, northwest and northeast depth to the Precambrian rarely exceeds 3,000 feet.

Major faulting that led to the formation of the basin and its elevator sub-basins is Early Pennsylvanian through Early Permian in age.

Sediments that infill the Tucumcari are Mississippian through Quaternary. Mississippian sediments are pre-basinal shelf carbonates and sandstones. Pennsylvanian and Lower Permian sediments are synorogenic with internal facies variations that reflect the proximity to the tectonic highlands of the ancestral Rocky Mountains.

Pennsylvanian and Lower Permian strata thicken dramatically in the elevator basins. The Pennsylvanian section may exceed 4,000 feet in the elevator basins but is generally less than 1,500 feet on the shelf areas.

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