Pinacate

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  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 31.772°N
  • 113.498°W

  • 1200 m
    3936 ft

  • 341001
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit
    Elevation

  • Volcano
    Number

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Pinacate is a large, roughly 55 x 60 km volcanic field in the Sonoran desert of NW México. It contains numerous youthful maars, tuff rings, and cinder cones of late-Pleistocene to Holocene age. The 2000 sq km volcanic field is prominent in satellite images of this arid, sparsely populated region between the Arizona border and the head of the Gulf of California. An older volcanic episode constructed the 1200-m-high Santa Clara basaltic-to-trachytic shield volcano. This was followed by the eruption of more than 500 basaltic cinder cones and lava flows that blanket the slopes of Santa Clara and the surrounding desert. Among the principal features of the Pinacate volcanic field are Elegante crater, a 1.6-km-wide maar, and Cerro Colorado, a 110-m-high, 1.1-km-wide tuff ring. Papago (Tohono O'odham) Indian legends tell of eruptions, however historical accounts of ash-and-steam eruptions in the 20th century are questionable.

Summary of Holocene eruption dates and Volcanic Explosivity Indices (VEI).

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
[ 1934 Dec 31 ] [ 1935 Jan 2 (?) ] Uncertain    
[ 1928 Jun 9 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain    

This compilation of synonyms and subsidiary features may not be comprehensive. Features are organized into four major categories: Cones, Craters, Domes, and Thermal Features. Synonyms of features appear indented below the primary name. In some cases additional feature type, elevation, or location details are provided.


Synonyms

Santa Clara | Pinacate Peaks

Cones

Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Carnegie Volcano Pyroclastic cone
Chivo, Cerro el Cone 330 m 31° 46' 5" N 113° 36' 58" W
Colorado, Cerro Tuff ring 31° 54' 53" N 113° 18' 0" W
Pinacate Peak Cone 1200 m
Santa Clara Shield volcano 1200 m
Tecolote Pyroclastic cone

Craters

Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Badillo Crater Maar 31° 58' 0" N 113° 34' 27" W
Caravajales Crater Crater 31° 54' 45" N 113° 41' 35" W
Celaya Crater Maar 31° 59' 1" N 113° 26' 47" W
Cuates, Cerro los Crater 31° 55' 0" N 113° 40' 0" W
Elegante, Volcán el Maar 320 m 31° 50' 40" N 113° 23' 28" W
Elena, Cráter Crater 31° 57' 40" N 113° 28' 23" W
Jarapena, Volcán la Crater 31° 59' 0" N 113° 46' 0" W
Kino Crater Maar 31° 58' 58" N 113° 30' 33" W
Luna, Volcán la Crater
Macdougal
    Verdugo, Volcán el
Maar 240 m 31° 58' 22" N 113° 37' 35" W
Molina Crater Maar 31° 57' 40" N 113° 36' 45" W
Moon Crater Maar 31° 45' 15" N 113° 41' 10" W
Pastoria, Cerro la Crater 32° 0' 0" N 113° 40' 0" W
Romo, Volcán
    Tinaja de los Papagos
Maar 390 m 31° 56' 0" N 113° 34' 5" W
Sykes Maar 31° 56' 15" N 113° 34' 5" W
Tinajita, Volcán el Maar 280 m 31° 58' 16" N 113° 34' 26" W
Trebol, Volcán el Crater 250 m 31° 57' 43" N 113° 36' 47" W
Verdugo, Volcán el Maar 250 m 31° 58' 34" N 113° 37' 34" W
Vidrios, Volcán los Maar 280 m 31° 59' 2" N 113° 26' 46" W
Pyroclastic-surge deposits surround the Cerro Colorado maar of the Pinacate volcanic field in NW México. These thin beds (note the coin for scale next to the the block in the center of the photo) were formed by successive explosions that produced laterally moving pyroclastic surges. The light-colored rock in the center of the photo is a ballistically ejected block that impacted onto the surface of earlier surge deposits, compressing them and forming a small pit.

Photo by Richard Waitt, 1988 (U.S. Geological Survey).
Cerro Colorado tuff cone in the NE part of the Pinacate volcanic field contains a 1-km-wide crater. Explosions blasted the crater through a nearly flat surface 24 km NE of Pinacate Peak. Distribution of ejecta by prevailing winds produced a hill on the side of the crater opposite this steep, 110-m-high crater wall. The ejecta include fragments of underlying granitic and metamorphic rocks.

Photo by Richard Waitt, 1988 (U.S. Geological Survey).
The Pinacate volcanic field is a roughly 55 x 60 km area containing numerous maars, tuff rings, and cinder cones. The field is prominent in satellite photos of this arid region of NW México near the head of the Gulf of California. The crater rim in the center of the photo is that of Crater Elegante, a 1.6-km-wide maar. Pinacate Peak in the distance caps the Santa Clara shield volcano, which is dotted with many youthful scoria cones and morphologically fresh lava-flow fields.

Photo by Richard Waitt, 1988 (U.S. Geological Survey).
McDougal Crater, one of many Quaternary maars in the Pinacate volcanic field, was blasted through flat-lying lava flows that form the darker beds about three-fourths of the way up the crater wall. Lighter-colored pyroclastic-surge deposits form the crater rim. Playa deposits occupy the flat floor of the maar. Crystalline rocks of the Sierrita el Temporal range lie to the north beyond the crater rim at the upper right.

Photo by Richard Waitt, 1988 (U.S. Geological Survey).
McDougal crater on the NW side of the Pinacate volcanic field in NW México is the largest maar at Pinacate. This view from the SE looks across the 1520 x 1740 m wide crater, which is floored by playa deposits that lie 130 m below the rim. The crater fill was derived primarily from tuff deposits that mantle the crater rim to a maximum thickness of 15 m. The maar was erupted through flat-lying alluvial terrain of the Gran Desierto.

Photo by Richard Waitt, 1988 (U.S. Geological Survey).
A large ejected block lies on the rim of Trebol maar, immediately SE of MacDougal maar in the NW part of the Pinacate volcanic field. The dark and light colored bars on the scale in front of the block mark 10 cm increments. The block fractured into three large segments following impact.

Photo by Richard Waitt, 1988 (U.S. Geological Survey).
The SE wall of Elegante crater reveals a cross-sectional view of a cinder cone that existed prior to explosive formation of the maar. The cinder cone was breached (center) during the intrusion of light-gray sills seen at the low point of the cone and on its right-hand side. The vent for the cinder cone was located within the SE part of Elegante crater. The surface of the cone is mantled by surge deposits of the maar-forming eruption.

Photo by Jim Luhr, 1996 (Smithsonian Institution).
A geologist stands on the hackly surface of a young lava flow north of Volcán la Morusa, near Cerro Colorado. The flow is one of many youthful, sparsely vegetated basaltic lava flows of the Pinacate volcanic field. Flow morphologies remain pristine for long periods of time in this arid region.

Photo by Jim Luhr, 1996 (Smithsonian Institution).
Cráter Elegante, the second largest maar of the Pinacate volcanic field, is seen here from the WSW. The notched area on the southern crater rim is a cinder cone truncated by the maar; another dark-colored cinder cone to the right on the southern flank is surrounded by light-colored pyroclastic-surge deposits from the maar-forming eruptions. A third cinder cone (lower left) is breached toward the rim of Cráter Elegante and is partially surrounded by the youthful dark-colored lava flow in the foreground.

Photo by David Roddy, 1965 (U.S. Geological Survey).
Cráter Elegante, seen here in an aerial oblique view from the NW, is a 1.6-km-wide maar formed in part by collapse of the crater walls into the vent. A series of basaltic lava flows, sills, and dikes pre-dating formation of the maar is exposed in the crater walls and is overlain by pyroclastic-surge deposits that mantle the rim and outer flanks of Cráter Elegante. Lake beds within the maar have been radiocarbon dated at between about 13,000 and 17,000 years, indicating a late-Pleistocene age for the maar-forming eruptions.

Photo by David Roddy, 1965 (U.S. Geological Survey).
Cerro Colorado tuff cone is one of the most prominent features of the Pinacate volcanic field. This aerial oblique view from the NW shows the 1-km-wide crater with its high point on the south rim. Tuff beds at Cerro Colorado dip inward up to 20-25 degrees at the south rim, much more steeply than at the low-rimmed Cráter Elegante. Cerro Colorado's crater was formed during several episodes of phreatomagmatic eruptions from multiple vents, during which portions of the tuff cone slumped into the crater.

Photo by David Roddy, 1965 (U.S. Geological Survey).
Participants in a geological field excursion examine outcrops on the floor of Cerro Colorado tuff cone. Cerro Colorado displays a wide variety of features produced by several episodes of phreatomagmatic eruptions. The south crater walls here reveal layered tuff deposits that are truncated by collapse of the inner crater walls into the vent. Steeply dipping dark-colored tuff beds (left) can be traced from the crater floor up and over the crater walls and down the outer flanks of the cone.

Photo by Bill Rose, 1978 (Michigan Technological University).
A group of geologists observes bedded pyroclastic-surge deposits from the Cerro Colorado tuff cone. Thinly bedded planar surge layers are typical of distal portions of pyroclastic-surge deposits and originate from traction of particles within a dense surge cloud.

Photo by Bill Rose, 1978 (Michigan Technological University).
Volcán Tecolote, NE of Cráter Elegante, is one of the youngest cinder cones of the Pinacate volcanic field. The complex cone was constructed on top of neighboring Mayo cone and is breached to the NW. The irregular Tecolote cinder cone is cut by faults and small craters. Large volcanic bombs, some with cores of older volcanic and non-volcanic rocks, dot the southern and east crater rims and mantle the southern slopes. Six basaltic aa lava flows extend from the base of the cone.

Photo by Bill Rose, 1974 (Michigan Technological University).
Santa Clara shield volcano, seen on the SW horizon beyond the rim of Cráter Elegante maar, is a massive basaltic-to-trachytic shield volcano of late-Pliocene to Pleistocene age. Santa Clara volcano is largely mantled by pyroclastic ejecta and lava flows of the basaltic Pinacate monogenetic volcanic series, which began erupting about 1.2 million years ago. More than 500 cinder cones and associated lava flows drape the shield volcano and extend into the surrounding desert.

Photo by Bill Rose, 1969 (Michigan Technological University).
Spectacular pyroclastic-surge deposits are exposed in gullies on the flanks of Cráter Elegante in the Pinacate volcanic field of NW México. This photo shows cross-bedded sandwave bed forms produced by particles transported by saltation or dilute suspension in a rapidly moving surge cloud. The direction of movement of the surge cloud, seen by the truncation of dune beds on the near-vent side, was from right to left. Sandwave beds predominate in areas near the rim of the maar.

Photo by Bill Rose, 1997 (Michigan Technological University).
A vast panorama of cinder cones and lava flows is viewed from near Cerro Colorado. More than 500 basaltic cinder cones and associated lava flows dot the Pinacate volcanic field, which also contains tuff cones like Cerro Colorado, nine maars, and the large basaltic-to-trachytic Santa Clara shield volcano.

Photo by Bill Rose, 1997 (Michigan Technological University).
The dark-colored area in the center of this Space Shuttle photograph is the Pinacate volcanic field in NW Mexico near the Gulf of California (lower left). Formation of the large Santa Clara shield volcano near the center of the 2000 sq km volcanic field during the Pleistocene was followed by the eruption of maars, tuff rings, basaltic pyroclastic cones, and lava flows that mantle the shield volcano and extend into the surrounding desert. This monogenetic volcanism began more than 1.2 million years ago and has continued to the present.

Photo by National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA), 1991.

The following references have all been used during the compilation of data for this volcano, it is not a comprehensive bibliography. Discussion of another volcano or eruption (sometimes far from the one that is the subject of the manuscript) may produce a citation that is not at all apparent from the title.

Barragan-R R M, Birkle P, Portugal-M E, Arrellano-G V M, Alvarez-R J, 2001. Geochemical survey of medium temperature geothermal resources from the Baja California Peninsula and Sonora, Mexico. J Volc Geotherm Res, 110: 101-119.

de Boer J Z, 1980. Paleomagnetism of the Quaternary Cerro Prieto, Crater Elegante, and Salton Buttes volcanic domes in the northern part of the Gulf of California rhombochasm. Proc 2nd Symp Cerro Prieto Geotherm Field, Baja Calif, Mexico, p 91-102.

Galbraith F W, 1959. Craters of the Pinacates. Ariz Geol Soc, Southern Ariz Guidebook, 2: 161-164.

Green J, Short N M, 1971. Volcanic Landforms and Surface Features: a Photographic Atlas and Glossary. New York: Springer-Verlag, 519 p.

Gutmann J G, 2002. Strombolian and effusive activity as precursors to phreatomagmatism: eruptive sequence at maars of the Pinacate volcanic field, Sonora, Mexico. J Volc Geotherm Res, 113: 345-356.

Gutmann J T, 1976. Geology of Crater Elegante, Sonora, Mexico. Geol Soc Amer Bull, 87: 1718-1729.

Gutmann J T, Sheridan M F, 1978. Geology of the Pinacate volcanic field. In: Burt D M, Pewe T L (eds), {Guidebook to the Geology of Central Arizona, Ariz Bur Geol Mineral Tech}, 2: 47-60.

Ives R L, 1956. Age of Cerro Colorado Crater, Pinacate, Sonora, Mexico. Eos, Trans Amer Geophys Union, 37: 221-223.

Ives R L, 1964. The Pinacate Region, Sonora, Mexico. Calif Acad Sci Occ Pap, 47: 1-43.

Lynch D J, Gutmann J T, 1988. Volcanic structures and alkaline rocks in the Pinacate volcanic field of Sonora, Mexico. In: Davis G H, VandenDolder E M (eds) {Geologic diversity of Arizona and its margins: excursions to choice areas}, Arizona Bur Geol Mineral Tech, 5: 309-322.

Lynch D J, Musselman T E, Gutmann J T, Patchett P J, 1993. Isotopic evidence for the origin of Cenozoic volcanic rocks in the Pinacate volcanic field, northwestern Mexico. Lithos, 29: 295-302.

Medina F, Suarez F, Espindola J M, 1989. Historic and Holocene volcanic centers in NW Mexico. Bull Volc Eruptions, 26: 91-93.

Turin B D, Gutmann J T, Swisher C C III, 2008. A 13 +/- 3 ka age determination of a tholeiite, Pinacate volcanic field, Mexico, and improved methods for 40Ar/39Ar dating of young basaltic rocks. J Volc Geotherm Res, 177: 848-856.

Wood C A, 1974. Reconnaissance geophysics and geology of the Pinacate craters, Sonora, Mexico. Bull Volc, 38: 149-172.

Volcano Types

Pyroclastic cone(s)
Maar(s)
Tuff ring(s)

Tectonic Setting

Subduction zone
Continental crust (> 25 km)

Rock Types

Major
Basalt / Picro-Basalt
Trachybasalt / Tephrite Basanite
Trachyandesite / Basaltic trachy-andesite
Trachyte / Trachyandesite
Minor
Andesite / Basaltic Andesite

Population

Within 5 km
Within 10 km
Within 30 km
Within 100 km
92
92
408
62,753

Affiliated Databases

Large Eruptions of Pinacate Information about large Quaternary eruptions (VEI >= 4) is cataloged in the Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions (LaMEVE) database of the Volcano Global Risk Identification and Analysis Project (VOGRIPA).
WOVOdat WOVOdat is a database of volcanic unrest; instrumentally and visually recorded changes in seismicity, ground deformation, gas emission, and other parameters from their normal baselines. It is sponsored by the World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) and presently hosted at the Earth Observatory of Singapore.
EarthChem EarthChem develops and maintains databases, software, and services that support the preservation, discovery, access and analysis of geochemical data, and facilitate their integration with the broad array of other available earth science parameters. EarthChem is operated by a joint team of disciplinary scientists, data scientists, data managers and information technology developers who are part of the NSF-funded data facility Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA). IEDA is a collaborative effort of EarthChem and the Marine Geoscience Data System (MGDS).
Smithsonian Collections Search the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences collections database. Go to the "Search Rocks and Ores" tab and use the Volcano Name drop-down to find samples.